Anti-Japanese Yellow Peril Campaign Begins Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Anti-Japanese and anti-immigrant fears and hatred led to racist polemics in local newspapers and the formation of anti-Japanese associations, including those of organized labor. They also led to boycotts against Japanese merchants and white merchants who employed Japanese workers and led to legislation that limited the civil rights of Japanese American immigrants.

Summary of Event

In 1890, there were only some two thousand Japanese living in America, working mainly as laborers and farmhands in California and the Pacific Northwest. Nevertheless, the use of Japanese to break a labor strike in the coal Mining;coal mines in British Columbia Mining;in British Columbia[British Columbia] British Columbia;coal mining began what was to become a widespread anti-Japanese campaign. "Yellow Peril" campaign[Yellow Peril] San Francisco;"Yellow Peril" campaign[Yellow Peril] Japanese immigrants;and “Yellow Peril” campaign[Yellow Peril campaign] San Francisco;"Yellow Peril" campaign[Yellow Peril] California;Chinese immigrants [kw]Anti-Japanese Yellow Peril Campaign Begins (May 4, 1892) [kw]Japanese Yellow Peril Campaign Begins, Anti- (May 4, 1892) [kw]Yellow Peril Campaign Begins, Anti-Japanese (May 4, 1892) [kw]Campaign Begins, Anti-Japanese Yellow Peril (May 4, 1892) [kw]Begins, Anti-Japanese Yellow Peril Campaign (May 4, 1892) "Yellow Peril" campaign[Yellow Peril] San Francisco;"Yellow Peril" campaign[Yellow Peril] Japanese immigrants;and “Yellow Peril” campaign[Yellow Peril campaign] San Francisco;"Yellow Peril" campaign[Yellow Peril] California;Chinese immigrants [g]Japan;May 4, 1892: Anti-Japanese Yellow Peril Campaign Begins[5810] [g]United States;May 4, 1892: Anti-Japanese Yellow Peril Campaign Begins[5810] [c]Civil rights and liberties;May 4, 1892: Anti-Japanese Yellow Peril Campaign Begins[5810] [c]Immigration;May 4, 1892: Anti-Japanese Yellow Peril Campaign Begins[5810] [c]Laws, acts, and legal history;May 4, 1892: Anti-Japanese Yellow Peril Campaign Begins[5810] [c]Diplomacy and international relations;May 4, 1892: Anti-Japanese Yellow Peril Campaign Begins[5810] Gage, Henry Phelan, James Schmitz, Eugene E.

Typical of the political rhetoric that was to become prevalent was a slogan used during a political campaign in 1887, when a “Dr. O’Donnell” of San Francisco included the slogan “Japs must go” in his campaign. Although the slogan had little effect on his failed political campaign, it was nevertheless a sign of things to come.

In 1889, the editor of the San Francisco Bulletin began a series of editorials attacking Japanese immigrants and making a case that they were dangerous to white American workers and to American culture. On May 4, 1892, he wrote, “It is now some three years ago that the Bulletin first called attention to the influx of Japanese into this state, and stated that in time their immigration threatened to rival that of the Chinese, with dire disaster to laboring interests in California.” The San Francisco Bulletin’s “Yellow Peril” campaign (named “yellow” for the skin-color designation of peoples of Asia) helped strengthen the growing anti-Japanese fervor in California. The campaign was not only against Japanese laborers, who were thought to be threatening the livelihoods of “real” American workers, but also against their perceived threat to American culture. Met with hostility, prejudice, and discrimination, Japanese in many urban areas settled into ethnic enclaves known as Japantowns, where they could secure employment and feel safe and comfortable among fellow compatriots.

On June 14, 1893, the San Francisco board of education passed a resolution requiring that all Japanese persons must attend the already segregated San Francisco;segregation in Segregation;in San Francisco[San Francisco] Chinese school instead of the regular public schools. Because of Japanese protests, the resolution was rescinded; however, it marked the beginning of legal discrimination against the Japanese in California. In 1894, a treaty between the United States and Japan allowed citizens open immigration, but both governments were given powers to limit excessive immigration. In 1900, because of American protests, Japan began a voluntary program to limit Japanese emigration to the United States.

This turn-of-the-century toy gun bears the message “Chinese must go.” When its trigger is pulled, the figure in the hat kicks the Chinese figure.

(Asian American Studies Library, University of California at Berkeley)

The Alaskan gold rush Alaska;gold rush of 1896-1899 attracted a great number of white laborers, and when the Northern Pacific and Great Northern Railroads worked to build a connecting line from Tacoma and Seattle to the east, extra laborers were needed. The companies turned to Japanese immigrants as workers. Some of these laborers came from Japan and Hawaii. The rapid influx of Japanese laborers created further anti-Asian sentiments and hostility.

With the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882;renewal of up for renewal in 1902, the anti-Japanese sentiment occurred in the overall context of a growing anti-Asian movement, especially among labor unions and various political groups. In April of 1900, the San Francisco Building Trades Council passed a resolution to support the renewal of the Chinese Exclusion Act and to add the Japanese to this act to “secure this Coast against any further Japanese immigration, and thus forever settle the mooted Mongolian labor problem.” The county Republican Party lobbied extensively to get the national Republican Party to adopt a Japanese exclusion plank in their national platform. San Francisco mayor James Phelan Phelan, James and California governor Henry Gage Gage, Henry joined the calls for Japanese to be included in the renewal of the Exclusion Act. However, when the exclusion law was extended in 1902, Japanese people were not included.

After the defeat of Russia by Japan in the Russo-Japanese War, a growing fear of Japanese power led to further agitation and political tactics to limit Japanese immigration and influence in America. Whereas Chinese were hated and despised by various politicians, labor leaders, and some regular citizens, Japanese were feared.

Significance

The Yellow Peril campaign of the nineteenth century did not stop with the beginning of the twentieth century. In 1905, the San Francisco Chronicle launched another anti-Japanese campaign, emphasizing the dangers of future immigration. Later, the San Francisco Labor Council, at the urging of a local doctor and with the support of San Francisco mayor Eugene E. Schmitz Schmitz, Eugene E. , launched boycotts Boycotts;vs. Japan[Japan] against Japanese merchants and white merchants who employed Japanese workers. Later that year, sixty-seven labor organizations formed the Asiatic Exclusion League (sometimes called the Japanese and Korean Exclusion League), and the American Federation of Labor passed a resolution that the provisions of the Chinese Exclusion Act be extended to include Japanese and Koreans.

In 1906, anti-Asian sentiments continued to grow. San Francisco was struck by a devastating earthquake Earthquakes;San Francisco in April, and civil unrest increased. Japanese persons and businesses were attacked and looted. On October 11, 1906, the San Francisco School Board ordered that all Japanese, Korean, and Chinese students attend a segregated San Francisco;segregation in Segregation;in San Francisco[San Francisco] “Oriental school.” (This regulation was later changed to include only older students and those with limited English proficiency.) Japan protested that the school board’s action violated the U.S.-Japan treaty of 1894, bringing the San Francisco situation into international focus. To assuage Japan, President Theodore Roosevelt Roosevelt, Theodore [p]Roosevelt, Theodore;and immigration[Immigration] arranged with the school board to rescind its order in exchange for federal action to limit immigration from Japan.

In the ensuing U.S.-Japan “Gentlemen’s Agreement,” Japan promised not to issue passports to laborers planning to settle in the United States and recognized U.S. rights to refuse Japanese immigrants entry into the United States. In an executive order issued on March 14, 1907, Roosevelt implemented an amendment to the Immigration Act of 1907, which allowed the United States to bar entry of any immigrant whose passport was not issued for direct entry into the United States and whose immigration was judged to threaten domestic labor conditions.

Although anti-Japanese sentiments lessened during World War I after Japan joined the Allies in the war against Germany, almost immediately following the war these sentiments resurfaced. The 1917 and 1924 Immigration Acts barred Asian laborers from the United States. In California, a campaign to pass the 1920 Alien Land Act attracted the support of the American Legion and the Native Sons and Daughters of the Golden West.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Ichihashi, Yamato. The American Immigration Collection: Japanese in the United States. 1932. Reprint. New York: Arno Press, 1969. A thorough description of Japanese immigration into the United States with an excellent chapter on anti-Japanese agitation.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">McWilliams, Carey. Prejudice: Japanese-Americans, Symbol of Racial Intolerance. 1944. Reprint. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1971. A dated but excellent account of anti-Japanese American prejudice and discrimination up to World War II. New foreword by McWilliams.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Takaki, Ronald. Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans. 1989. Rev. ed. Boston: Little, Brown, 1998. An excellent overview of the broader picture of Asian immigration and settlement in the United States.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Wilson, Robert A., and Bill Hosokawa. East to America: A History of the Japanese in the United States. New York: William Morrow, 1980. An excellent account of Japanese immigration and settlement in the United States.

American Era of “Old” Immigration

California Gold Rush Begins

Chinese Begin Immigrating to California

Burlingame Treaty

First Transcontinental Railroad Is Completed

Congress Enacts the Page Law

Arthur Signs the Chinese Exclusion Act

San Francisco’s Chinese Six Companies Association Forms

American Protective Association Is Formed

America’s “New” Immigration Era Begins

Chinese Californians Form Native Sons of the Golden State

Related Article in <i>Great Lives from History: The Nineteenth Century, 1801-1900</i>

Stephen J. Field. "Yellow Peril" campaign[Yellow Peril] San Francisco;"Yellow Peril" campaign[Yellow Peril] Japanese immigrants;and “Yellow Peril” campaign[Yellow Peril campaign] San Francisco;"Yellow Peril" campaign[Yellow Peril] California;Chinese immigrants

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