Dr. Betty Lee Sung is a leading authority on the Chinese in the United States. Her first book, Mountain of Gold (Macmillan in 1967), chronicled the history of the Chinese in America, and it was a pioneer work. Its publication led to an invitation to initiate Asian American Studies at the City College of new York in 1970. Again, these courses were the first of their kind in the Eastern United States. She taught at City College advancing to Chair of the Department of Asian Studies until her retirement in 1992.
Professor Sung followed with seven other books on Chinese Americans. Among them: The Story of the Chinese in America (1971), The Chinese in America (1973), Survey of Chinese Manpower and Employment (1976), Album of Chinese Americans (1977), Statistical Profiles of the Chinese in the United States (1979), Adjustment Experience of Chinese Immigrant Children in New York City (1987), and Chinese American Intermarriage (1990). In 1994, she completed a database of the Chinese immigrant records in the New York Region National Archives with grants from the Chiang Ching Kuo Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The database will enable scholars to recreate the early history of the Chinese in this country and it will be a fertile source for genealogical research.
Born in the United States on October 3, 1924 to poor Chinese immigrant parents from Guangdong, Professor Sung has gone through the full gamut of struggles, discrimination, experiences, and achievements of Chinese Americans. She grew up in Washington, D.C., but during the depression years her father took the family back to his hometown, Toishan. She returned to the United States shortly before Guangdong fell into Japanese hands during World War II.
Professor Sung attended the University of Illinois, graduating with a B.A. in economics in 1984. Coming to New York she worked as a script writer for the Voice of America. One of her weekly programs was on the activities of the Chinese in the United States. It was at this time that she discovered the paucity of information about the Chinese as well as the mistakened images that American people held of her people. She vowed to correct that image. This vow led to her first book.
Professor Sung has been the recipient of many research grants and awards. Her Manpower and Employment book won an outstanding book award in 1976. Her first book, Mountain of Gold, is a classic in Asian American Studies. Not only did she teach, research and write, professor Sung is also an advocate for Chinese American interests. She is active in many organizations, and she speaks out against discrimination and injustice toward Chinese Americans. She has been honored by many organizations like the Cosmopolitan Lion's Club, the Organization of Chinese Americans, the Asian American Higher Education Council, the American Library Association, the Chinese Communities in Houston and Philadelphia, and many others. In 1996, she was awarded an honorary doctorate, Doctor of Letters, from the State University of New York Old Westbury, and she gave the commencement address.
Professor Sung is married to Charles Chung, formerly with the United Nations. In addition to all her professional achievements, she and her husband have brought up eight children.