Go For Broke

National Education Center

Historical Timeline: Pre-1941

United States President James Buchanan welcomes the Japanese Embassy, 1860. Courtesy of the Illustrated London News.

After political changes in Japan, the Japanese begin to migrate to other regions of the world, including the United States.

Bronze statue honoring the earliest Japanese sugar cane workers in Hawaii. Courtesy of Viriditas.

The first small group of Japanese immigrants, known as the gannen mono, arrives in Hawaii to work as contract laborers for large sugar plantations.

Site of the Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Colony. Courtesy of NoeHill.
Site of the Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Colony. Courtesy of NoeHill.

A group of Japanese establishes the Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Colony in Gold Hills, California, becoming the first Japanese immigrants to the US mainland.

The Meiji government disallows the departure of any Japanese until 1885, because of the poor treatment they receive in America.

Damage done during a 1907 riot by the Asiatic Exclusion League's sister organization in Canada. Courtesy of the Library and Archives Canada.

The Japanese and Korean Exclusion League is formed in San Francisco, CA, consisting of more than 60 labor unions. Later known as the Asiatic Exclusion League, the organization works to exclude Asians from the US.

The San Francisco school board sends all Asian children to a segregated school. The order is primarily directed at Japanese schoolchildren.

The US and Japan establish the Gentlemen’s Agreement in which Japan agrees to deny passports to most emigrants to America. Because of this ruling, the San Francisco school board agrees to rescind the segregation order.

Edward Douglass White, Jr., Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court during the Ozawa case. Courtesy of Frances Benjamin Johnston.

The Supreme Court rules in Ozawa v. the United States that only whites or those of African descent are eligible for naturalization by circumventing its reference to “color” and refining its definition of “whites” to mean specifically Caucasians.

Juichi Soyeda and Tadao Kamiya of Japan lobby against the Alien Land Act. 1913. Courtesy of Bain News Service, Library of Congress.

California passes its Alien Land Act, which prohibits any “aliens ineligible for citizenship” from owning land or property for more than three years.

French soldiers northwest of Verdun, 1916.

World War I is fought between the Allied Powers (France, Britain, Russia, US), and the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Ottoman Empire, Bulgaria).

President Woodrow Wilson, pictured here, twice vetoed the Immigration Act of 1917. However, Congress passed it over his objections. Courtesy of the Pach Brothers, New York.

Immigration Act restricts the immigration of “undesirables” and those from the Asiatic Barred Zone, any areas connected to the continent of Asia and not owned by the US.

President Calvin Coolidge (seated), signer of the Immigration Act of 1924. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The Cable Act denies citizenship to female citizens who married aliens and to female aliens who married US citizens. Asian American women in particular are barred from regaining their citizenship through naturalization because of their race.

The Immigration Act of 1924 establishes immigrant quotas that exclude any Asians from entering the United States.

Japanese troops enter Mukden. September 18, 1931.

Japan seizes the city of Mukden in what is known as the The Mukden, or Manchurian, Incident, thus beginning its invasion of China and fueling anti-Japanese sentiment.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Selective Training and Service Act. Sept. 16, 1940. Courtesy of the US Government.

Congress passes the Alien Registration Act, requiring all aliens and non-US nationals to register with the government and be fingerprinted, and making it illegal “to advocate, abet, or teach the desirability of overthrowing the government.”

Congress also passes the Selective Training and Service Act, requiring all men between the ages of 21 and 45 to register for the draft. This was the first peacetime draft in US history.

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