Racial Segregation in San Francisco, 1906

On this day in 1906, the San Francisco Board of Education ordered Japanese students to move to racially segregated schools.

First-graders, some of Japanese ancestry, at t...

First graders, some of Japanese descent, pledging allegiance to the flag.

Editor’s note: This summer, I wrote an extended essay, or 4,000 word research dissertation, as part of the International Baccalaureate program. I chose to write about history (obviously) and chose the topic of the Supreme Court Case Korematsu v. United States which challenged the constitutionality of Japanese-American Internment during World War II. Not knowing the scope of a 4,000 word essay, I decided to start my research with anti-Orientalist sentiments that existed on the West Coast decades prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the consequent internment of Japanese Americans. I took thousands of words of notes before I had even reached Pearl Harbor. There was no way this information would fit into my essay. My supervisor told me that I could include this information in an addendum at the end of my essay to evade the word count. However, after further research, I realized this would probably only annoy my grader, so I decided to cut it out completely. But today I thought that my addendum should finally see the light of day, as it relates to today’s historical event. So, without further ado, here is my rejected off-topic addendum.

“The anti-Orientalism of California and the West Coast dates back to the time of the gold rush in 1849, when Chinese laborers competed with American laborers for jobs in mining and railroad construction. American resentment toward Chinese laborers fed off of a general white supremacist ideology that dominated America at the time.

The consequent feelings of anti-Orientalism proved to be a problem for Japanese people who began immigrating to America in the 1880s to fill the demand for agricultural workers created by the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Anti-Oriental sentiments were fueled by the increased economic competition for jobs that resulted from the influx of Japanese people.  In addition, many Japanese immigrants could successfully farm along certain areas of the West Coast while some Americans could not, thus further increasing tensions. In fact, some political groups, such as the Native Sons of the Golden West, worked to prevent Japanese immigrants from entering the country or voting once they became citizens.

In 1905, anti-Japanese sentiment reached a fever pitch in San Francisco when the newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, launched a campaign against Japanese people. A week after the Chronicle’s campaign started, both houses of the California legislature unanimously approved a resolution requesting Congress to limit the further immigration of Japanese.  In October 1906, the San Francisco School Board segregated classrooms so that the white ‘children should not be placed in any position where their youthful impressions may be affected by association with the Mongolian race.’

Furthermore, American legislators passed discriminatory laws against Japanese immigrants. For example, the Naturalization Act of 1790 stated that only free white people born in other countries could apply for US citizenship; in 1924, the Naturalization Act was changed so that Japanese-born immigrants could never become naturalized citizens.

It was in this tension-filled state that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.”

My addendum was originally supposed to be an introduction, which explains the cliffhanger at the end. SPOILER ALERT: Things only get worse from there.

Hopefully I’ll be able to write more about what I learned while researching my essay. Though unfair and frustrating, Japanese-American Internment is a fascinating subject.

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One thought on “Racial Segregation in San Francisco, 1906

  1. OMG thank you for your work! I have been looking forever for the history of this for a AP human geography project and you helped me out alot! Thank you thank you thank you!

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