Wong was working at Hollywood's Ville de Paris department store when Metro Pictures needed 300 female extras to appear in Alla Nazimova's film The Red Lantern (1919). Without her father's knowledge, a friend of his with movie connections helped her land an uncredited role as an extra carrying a lantern.
The National Conference on Lynching took place in Carnegie Hall, New York City, May 5–6, 1919. The goal of the conference was to pressure Congress to pass the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill. It was a project of the new NAACP, which in April released a report, Thirty Years of Lynching in the United States, 1889-1918.
At 1:00 AM on the morning of May 24, 1919, two white men, John Dowdy and Levi Evans went into the black section of Milan. They first tried to get into the home of Emma McCollers who had two young daughters. When the family refused to open the door Dowdy fired his gun. This caused the girls to flee to another house, the home of widow Emma Tisber. The two men followed and invaded the Tisber home and attempted to assault two young black girls. When the two girls attempted to hide under the porch, Dowdy and Evans began ripping up the floor to get to them. Washington, a black man, attempted to defend the girls and get the men to leave. Dowdy fired at Washington and after a struggle, Washington, who was 72 years old, shot and killed Dowdy. Washington went uptown and woke up the chief of police, Mr. Stuckey, who sent Washington to the McCrae jail at 2:00 AM May 24, 1919. There he stayed in jail until the 25th, at 12:00 PM, when a crowd of white men, led by a Baptist minister, removed Washington from the jail. To possibly hide their crimes all black residents of Milan were rounded up and ordered out of the town on the night of May 25th. At 2:00 AM on May 26th the lynch mob hung him from a post and shot him repeatedly until his body fell in pieces from the post. White residents rioted in the city, damaging and burning many black homes. They threatened black citizens, lest they dare to speak out about the events in public.
On May 30, 1919, about 20 sailors and soldiers were arrested by police officers, marines, and firemen. The Greeneville Daily Sun reported that the trouble began when "African American sailors" entered the Coast Guard Academy in New London and attacked white sailors. On June 29, 1919, another riot erupted which required the Marines to restore order.