What were the goals and activities of anti-Japanese groups on the West Coast?

Japanese immigrants and their American children were frequent targets of prejudice and political attacks for 50 years before World War II. In May 1905, delegates from 67 organizations convened in San Francisco, California, to form the Asiatic Exclusion League, later known as the Japanese Exclusion League. After the transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869, competition for jobs increased. Many organized labor groups first blamed Chinese, then Japanese immigrants for unemployment and low wages.

Led primarily by labor groups, the League's goal was complete job exclusion of those of Japanese ancestry. They lobbied for anti-Japanese legislation, conducted boycotts, promoted segregation and produced propaganda. The League pressured Congress to keep Japanese people out of agriculture and other industries, and to stop all immigration of Japanese to the U.S. They held anti-Japanese rallies and worked to restrict employment of Japanese Americans. The League acted to ensure that children of Japanese ancestry remained in segregated schools, as reflected in the San Francisco School Board statement, "children should not be placed in any position where their youthful impressions may be affected by association with pupils of the Mongolian race."[2]

The Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) reported that within three years, the Japanese Exclusion League had more than 100,000 members and 238 affiliated groups, mostly from labor unions.[3] Other groups along the West Coast also acted against people of Japanese ancestry: the Native Sons (and Native Daughters) of the Golden West; the American Legion; the California State Federation of Labor; the California State Grange; and the Anti-Jap Laundry League.

2. Roger Daniels. The Politics of Prejudice: The Anti-Japanese Movement in California and the Struggle for Japanese Exclusion. (1962. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977), page 32.

3. Personal Justice Denied, pages 32-33.


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