Gentleman's Agreement [1908] - History

Gentleman's Agreement [1908] - History

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In order that the best results might follow an enforcement of the regulations, an understanding was reached with Japan that the existing policy of discouraging emigration of its subjects of the laboring classes to continental United States should be continued, and should, by co-operation with the governments, be made as effective as possible. This understanding contemplates that the Japanese government shall issue passports to continental United States only to such of its subjects as are non-laborers or are laborers who, in coming to the continent, seek to resume a formerly acquired domicile, to join a parent, wife, or children residing there, or to assume active control of an already possessed interest in a farming enterprise in this country, so that the three classes of laborers entitled to receive passports have come to be designated "former residents " "parents, wives, or children of residents " and "settled agriculturists."

With respect to Hawaii, the Japanese government of its own volition stated that, experimentally at least, the issuance of passports to members of the laboring classes proceeding thence would be limited to "former residents" and "parents, wives, or children of residents." The said government has also been exercising a careful supervision over the subject of emigration of its laboring class to foreign contiguous territory.

Victor Metcalf, Secretary of Commerce and Labor

An image of the typescript letter is available at the Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University.

In the fall of 1906, the San Francisco school board decided to send all their Japanese-American children to a segregated school. The Japanese government objected strongly to Japanese nationals and their descendants being treated with the same kind of racism that Americans applied to the Chinese.

Diplomatic negotiations between Japan and the United States resulted in the "Gentlemen's Agreement of 1907": the United States refrained from passing laws that specifically excluded Japanese immigration or discriminated against Japanese Americans, and Japan agreed to prevent its working-class citizens from leaving for the United States. The agreement was not a single document or treaty but an understanding between the two governments worked out in a series of notes and conversations. This letter comes from early in the process.

My dear Secretary Metcalf,

Let me begin by complimenting you upon the painstaking thoroness and admirable temper with which you have been going into the case of the treatment of the Japanese on the coast. If our treaty contains no "most favored nation" clause then I am inclined to feel as strongly as you do that we had better take no action to upset the action of the Board of Education of the City of San Francisco. I had a talk with the Japanese Ambassador before I left for Panama read him what I was to say in my annual message, which evidently pleased him very much and then told him that in my judgment the only way to prevent constant friction between the United States and Japan was to keep the movement of the citizens of each country into the other restricted as far as possible to students, travelers, business men, and the like that inasmuch as no American laboring men were trying to get into Japan what was necessary was to prevent all immigration of Japanese laboring men - - that is, of the Coolie class - - into the United States that I earnestly hoped his Government would stop their coolies, all their working men, from coming either to the United States or to Hawaii. He assented cordially to this view and said that he had always been against permitting Japanese coolies to go to America or to Hawaii. Of course the great difficulty in getting the Japanese to take this view is the irritation caused by the San Francisco action. I hope that my message will smooth over their feelings so that the government will quietly stop all immigration of coolies into our country. At any rate I shall do my best to bring this about.

The Gentleman's Magazine

The Gentleman's Magazine began publication with the January 1731 issue. Over time the magazine had various subtitles, including "monthly intelligencer" and "historical review". It started a new series in 1834, and again in 1868 but volume numbering appears to be have been somewhat inconsistent. It ceased publication in 1907.

Persistent Archives of Complete Issues

  • 1731-1777, 1779-1907: HathiTrust has all volumes except for 1778, scanned from the University of Michigan and the New York Public Library. Due to inconsistent volume numbering and multiple series, looking up volumes by date may be more effective than by number. Volumes dated after 1895 may be inaccessible outside the United States see below for some individual volumes that might be accessible elsewhere.
  • 1736-1849: HathiTrust has all volumes from 1736 to 1849, scanned from Indiana University and Harvard University. Again, looking up volumes by date might be more effective than by number.
  • 1873: The Internet Archive has entirely new series volume 10, covering January-June 1873.
  • 1873: The Internet Archive has entirely new series volume 11, covering July-December 1873.
  • 1874: The Internet Archive has entirely new series volume 12, covering January-June 1874.
  • 1874: The Internet Archive has entirely new series volume 13, covering July-December 1874.
  • 1875: The Internet Archive has entirely new series volume 14, covering January-June 1875.
  • 1875: The Internet Archive has entirely new series volume 15, covering July-December 1875.
  • 1876: The Internet Archive has entirely new series volume 16, covering January-June 1876.
  • 1876: The Internet Archive has the July-December 1876 volume.
  • 1877: The Internet Archive has volume 240, covering January-June 1877.
  • 1877: The Internet Archive has volume 241, covering July-December 1877.
  • 1878: The Internet Archive has volume 242, covering January-June 1878.
  • 1878: The Internet Archive has volume 243, covering July-December 1878.
  • 1879: The Internet Archive has volume 244, covering January-June 1879.
  • 1879: The Internet Archive has volume 245, covering July-December 1879.
  • 1880: The Internet Archive has volume 246, covering January-June 1880.
  • 1880: The Internet Archive has volume 249, covering July-December 1880. (This volume includes a note that 247 and 248 were skipped due to previously incorrect overall numbering.)
  • 1881: The Internet Archive has volume 250, covering January-June 1881.
  • 1881: The Internet Archive has volume 251, covering July-December 1881.
  • 1882: The Internet Archive has volume 252, covering January-June 1882.
  • 1882: The Internet Archive has volume 253, covering July-December 1882.
  • 1883: The Internet Archive has volume 254, covering January-June 1883.
  • 1883: The Internet Archive has volume 255, covering July-December 1883.
  • 1884: The Internet Archive has volume 256, covering January-June 1884.
  • 1884: The Internet Archive has volume 257, covering July-December 1884.
  • 1885: The Internet Archive has volume 258, covering January-June 1885.
  • 1885: The Internet Archive has volume 259, covering July-December 1885.
  • 1886: The Internet Archive has volume 260, covering January-June 1886.
  • 1886: The Internet Archive has volume 261, covering July-December 1886.
  • 1887: The Internet Archive has volume 262, covering January-June 1887.
  • 1887: The Internet Archive has volume 263, covering July-December 1887.
  • 1888: The Internet Archive has volume 264, covering January-June 1888.
  • 1888: The Internet Archive has volume 265, covering July-December 1888.
  • 1889: The Internet Archive has volume 266, covering January-June 1889.
  • 1889: The Internet Archive has volume 267, covering July-December 1889.
  • 1890: The Internet Archive has volume 268, covering January-June 1890.
  • 1890: The Internet Archive has volume 269, covering July-December 1890.
  • 1891: The Internet Archive has volume 270, covering January-June 1891.
  • 1891: The Internet Archive has volume 271, covering July-December 1891.
  • 1892: The Internet Archive has volume 272, covering January-June 1892.
  • 1892: The Internet Archive has volume 273, covering July-December 1892.
  • 1893: The Internet Archive has volume 274, covering January-June 1893.
  • 1893: The Internet Archive has volume 275, covering July-December 1893.
  • 1894: The Internet Archive has volume 276, covering January-June 1894.
  • 1894: The Internet Archive has volume 277, covering July-December 1894.
  • 1895: The Internet Archive has volume 278, covering January-June 1895.
  • 1895: The Internet Archive has volume 279, covering July-December 1895.
  • 1896: The Internet Archive has volume 280, covering January-June 1896.
  • 1896: The Internet Archive has volume 281, covering July-December 1896.
  • 1897: The Internet Archive has volume 282, covering January-June 1897.
  • 1897: The Internet Archive has volume 283, covering July-December 1897. Some pages are cut off in this scan.
  • 1898: The Internet Archive has volume 284, covering January-June 1898.
  • 1898: The Internet Archive has volume 285, covering July-December 1898.
  • 1899: The Internet Archive has volume 286, covering January-June 1899.
  • 1899: The Internet Archive has volume 287, covering July-December 1899.
  • 1900: The Internet Archive has volume 288, covering January-June 1900.
  • 1900: The Internet Archive has volume 289, covering July-December 1900.
  • 1901: The Internet Archive has volume 290, covering January-June 1901.
  • 1901: The Internet Archive has volume 291, covering July-December 1901.
  • 1902: The Internet Archive has volume 292, covering January-June 1902.
  • 1902: The Internet Archive has volume 293, covering July-December 1902. Some pages are cut off in this scan.
  • 1903: The Internet Archive has volume 295, covering July-December 1903.
  • 1904: The Internet Archive has volume 296, covering January-June 1904.
  • 1904: The Internet Archive has volume 297, covering July-December 1904. Some pages are cut off in this scan.
  • 1905: The Internet Archive has volume 298, covering January-June 1905.
  • 1906: HathiTrust has volumes 300 and 301 in a reprint edition. Access may be restricted outside the United States.
  • 1906: The Internet Archive has volume 300, covering January-June 1906.
  • 1906: The Internet Archive has volume 301, covering July-December 1906.
  • 1907: The Internet Archive has volume 302, covering January-June 1907.

Related Resources

  • We also list an index of the magazine from 1731-1786.
  • We also list an index of the magazine from 1787-1818, which includes a preface on the early history of the magazine.

This is a record of a major serial archive. This page is maintained for The Online Books Page. (See our criteria for listing serial archives.) This page has no affiliation with the serial or its publisher.

Breaking Away from the “Gentleman’s Agreement”

What kind of a city should Philadelphia be? Ponderous, historical and homey, stuck in its quaint ways, admiring of its own image in the review mirror? Or should Philadelphia throw in its hat and become lively, contemporary and international, willing to join the what’s what of World Cities?

Developer Williard Rouse didn’t think it was a real choice as he put the make-it-or-break-it question to the people of Philadelphia in the Spring of 1984. Rouse proposed breaking the city’s “gentleman’s agreement,” that quirky, decades-old a pact more ephemeral than legal. It had never been on the books but had been kept alive in the boardrooms as a ready-made, self-deprecating put down. Anyone suggesting a project over 500 feet would be brought up short by city planner Edmund N. Bacon with the same line: ‘It’s only a gentleman’s agreement. The question is, are you a gentleman?’”

There were a lot of places in the city where you couldn’t even see City Hall tower or the statue of the founder. “If you stood at Rittenhouse Square right now and looked for William Penn,” Rouse pointed out, “you would not find him.” According Benjamin M. Gerber’s chronicle of the gentleman’s agreement’s demise, the Inquirer editorial board agreed: “much of the symbolism of Penn’s supremacy was already lost amidst ‘a stubby tide of undistinguished office buildings already [lapping] just shy of Penn’s pantaloons.’”

Inquirer architecture writer Thomas Hine had seen it coming. “The breakthrough might come in private office building, or as a public monument,” he wrote in 1983, “but it seems that sooner or later, the city will rise over William Penn’s head.” When, the following April, Rouse presented two projects, a short one and a tall one (he only intended to develop latter). The debate that ensued became “The Battle of Billy Penn” as Gregory L. Heller tells it in his new biography of Bacon. It played out everywhere: in the streets, in the media, and in the public mind as Philadelphia redefined itself at the end of the century that began with the installation of the 37-foot bronze founder above the a humble skyline.

“The way people talked about One Liberty Place when plans for this skyscraper were announced,” wrote Paul Goldberger in the New York Times, “you would have thought that this was not a new building but some sort of nuclear weapon. One Liberty Place would be the ruination of Philadelphia, cried the project’s opponents, the sign that this somewhat genteel city had sold out to real-estate developers and become just like anyplace else.” The crier-in-chief, of course, was the retired Bacon, whose energy, style and way with words fueled the debate. The height limitation “sets Philadelphia apart from all other” cities. And Bacon warned: “once smashed it is gone forever.”

One Liberty Place in Philadelphia’s skyline, December 5, 1987. (

Liberty Place was built, of course.

In 1987, when it opened, some couldn’t forget that architect Helmut Jahn adapted it from a much taller, unbuilt tower proposed for Houston. They couldn’t forgive that it looked like a bulked-up version of New York’s Chrysler Building. Hine wrote that Liberty Place “loomed,” but appreciated how, amidst the “stubble” of existing office buildings, it turned “the uninspiring commercial agglomeration into a complete visual composition.” Liberty Place stood “like a mountain among the foothills.”

Philadelphia’s height limitation had been “an empty gesture, hollow and pretentious,” wrote Goldlberger in the New York Times. “The urban order that Philadelphians had for so long cherished was a myth… it was a fallacy to pretend that City Hall still commanded the skyline…William Penn barely stuck his head above his grim surroundings.” With Liberty Place, “City Hall…is still there, still great, and still at the critical center of the city. The only thing that has been lost is the illusion that William Penn was lording over it all.” Goldberger glowed that Liberty Place “transcends the old order, and establishes a new one, at a level of quality good enough to justify throwing away the old.”

Liberty Place would “dislodge this historical center which… informed our city from the beginning,” predicted Bacon. “In our arrogance, we replace it with a floating center up for sale to the highest bidder.” In that sense, Liberty Place and the still taller Comcast Center confirmed his worst fears.

But in the end, what was sacrificed? Sure, the skyline would never be the same. It would never again take on the same kind meaning. In the debates of the 1980s, Philadelphians were forced to think long and hard about where they found substance and where they found meaning. “We may be giving up something insubstantial, but not meaningless,” observed one architect.

In the 21st century, Philadelphians would search for substance and meaning in places other than the skyline. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

Moments in Car History: The Japanese Gentleman’s Agreement

For almost two decades, Japanese automakers were engaged in a state of informal, unstated mutual restraint, where no car that they produced would have higher than 280 horsepower. There are a few reasons suggested for this, but sources seem to agree that it was mostly about safety.

According to The Japan Times, this informal agreement had roots back in the mid-’70s, when Japan was beginning to have a real problem with groups collectively called the bosozoku—street gangs on motorcycles and cars who would ignore traffic rules and raise havoc.

To fix this problem, the Japan Automobile Manufacturer’s Association (JAMA) suggested that Japanese auto makers put a speed-limiting device on all future Japanese vehicles to restrict speed to 180 kph. When the public showed support for the idea, auto manufacturers implemented the limiters. Unfortunately, although gang activity was limited, the bosozoku gangs still exist today.

So, when a new crisis came about in the late ’80s, Japanese automakers were ready to take action. In the 1980s, Japan’s road fatalities were rising to alarming levels, peaking at more than 10,000 in 1988. JAMA once again stepped in, asking carmakers to limit engine power to around 280 horsepower, since they believed that high speeds and road deaths were directly linked.

Timed as it was to coincide with the release of the Nissan Fairlady Z (which had exactly that many horsepower), the suggestion was taken to heart—following this suggestion, safety- and image-minded automakers brought in better and better engines, but all with the 280 horsepower tag.

The Datsun Fairlady Z (the Datsun company is owned by Nissan)

By the mid- to late-’90s, though, as safety features like airbags, pretensioner seat belts, and antilock brakes were introduced, road fatalities began to drop, making some wonder whether horsepower really had anything to do with it.

At the time, car manufacturers must have been wondering the same thing. Although vehicles coming in still bore the 280-horsepower tag, many, such as the Skyline GT-R, were already breaking the rule—as Jalopnik’s Doug DeMuro recently found, it actually produced something more like 320 horsepower.

Dissent grew further as foreign manufacturers built stronger and stronger cars, limiting the Japanese car market abroad, until the pivotal (and surprisingly recent) year of 2004. In July of 2004, Former JAMA Chairman Itaru Koeda went before the press to tell them the truth—JAMA had found no relationship between speed and road fatalities. Koeda called for an end to the gentleman’s agreement.

This also happened at the same time as the release of a vehicle that would start the trend—the Honda Legend, which produced 300 horsepower. Since then Japanese horsepower has climbed, and climbed, and climbed until it has joined the rest of the world.

Thanks goodness, too, because with that limit, there is no way that we would have ended up with our beloved 550-horsepower 2016 Nissan GT-R. That isn’t a world we want to live in.

It just wouldn’t be worth it

Before you purchase a new car it is best practice to get a full history check to ensure the car doesn’t have a hidden history. Good history checks include financial data, theft status, mileage concerns, finance outstanding, plate transfers, color changes, ownership information and more. Companies like CarVeto provide such services and include both free and paid background checks.

The News Wheel is a digital auto magazine providing readers with a fresh perspective on the latest car news. We’re located in the heart of America (Dayton, Ohio) and our goal is to deliver an entertaining and informative perspective on what’s trending in the automotive world. See more articles from The News Wheel.

The Pulitzer's Gentlemen's Agreement

Philip Nobile is an investigative reporter who has written for several national publications. He lives in Scarsdale, NY.

To: The 2017-2018 Pulitzer Board

Re: The Pulitzer's Gentlemen's Agreements

I am writing the full Board because neither your Chair Eugene Robinson nor your Administrator Dana Canedy responded to my March 30 email and subsequent phone calls to the Pulitzer office seeking comment on my draft of "The Prize That Taints the Pulitzer's Ethics and Honor" posted on the History News Network on April 20.

The article makes the case for reviewing the bona fides of Alex Haley's 1977 special award for Roots just as the 2003-2004 Board reconsidered Walter Duranty's 1932 prize for foreign reporting. Although the Board decided in Duranty's favor, it set a strict standard for revocation: "clear and convincing evidence of deliberate deception." Apparently, this was the same (then unwritten) standard for the Board's swift withdrawal of Janet Cooke's 1980 prize for feature writing. "Osborne Elliott, dean of the Columbia School of journalism, which oversees the Pulitzer awards process, said yesterday afternoon that the Pulitzer board, after being polled by telephone, withdrew Cooke's prize and awarded it to the runner-up, Teresa Carpenter of The Village Voice." (Washington Post, "Post Reporter's Pulitzer Prize Is Withdrawn," April 16, 1981)

"To a moral certainty Haley crossed the Pulitzer threshold of deception," I claimed in the HNN article, which includes never before seen documents in Haley's handwriting proving that he faked the existence of Kunta Kinte, his imaginary Gambian slave forebear. "Clear and convincing evidence exists that he deliberately deceived the readers of Roots both in his fiction and non-fiction.Nor is there the slightest counter-evidence anywhere from Haley's family, editors, and associates, or from journalists, historians and genealogists, arguing that he was an honest writer."

In fact, prominent Pulitzer fellows have been outspoken detractors. Even before the 1976-1977 Board announced Haley's award, 1952 history winner Oscar Handlin declared Roots a "fraud" in the New York Times. ("Some Historians Dismiss Report Of Factual Mistakes in 'Roots'," April 10, 1977)

"If we blew the Haley Prize, as we apparently did, I feel bad," Columbia President William McGill, an ex officio member of the Roots Board, declared in my 9,000-word Village Voice exposé. "We were embarrassed by our makeup. We all labored under the delusion that sudden expressions of love could make up for historical mistakes. . Of course, that's inverse racism. But there was no way to deal with sensitivities like this." ("Alex Haley's Hoax," February 23, 1993)

Former Chair and double prize winner Russell Baker mocked the Roots Board in a letter to this writer by referring to "the Jonsonian comedy of so many vital citizens being so thoroughly hoaxed." (June 22, 1998)

Finally, another former chair, Henry Louis Gates, as general editor of the 2,660-page Norton Anthology of African American Literature (1996), erased Haley's legacy by denying an entry for the first male writer of African descent to gain a Pulitzer.

Nonetheless, despite this negative backdrop successive Boards have tolerated Haley's literary imposture for forty years via a Gentlemen's Agreement, not the sort that excluded blacks from your privileged clique for sixty-plus years, but the inverse cited by President McGill. How else to interpret (a) the unanimous refusal of the 1992-1993 Board to discuss the cascade of self-incriminations in Haley's private tapes and papers reported in the Voice story that Chair Claude Sitton had placed on the annual meeting agenda and (b) the silence of the current Chair and Administrator regarding my HNN draft and follow-up queries.

I have read your Pulitzer biographies noting your towering accomplishments and impeccable professional standing implying a deep bedrock of integrity. In particular, John Daniszewski heads up AP's standards "ensur[ing] the highest levels of media ethics and fairness." Neil Brown is President of the Poynter Institute, whose "Guiding Principles for Journalists" states: "Poynter trains journalists to avoid ethical failings including conflicts of interest, bias and inaccuracy, and to uphold best practices, such as transparency and accountability." As ProPublica's editor-in-Chief, Stephen Engelberg leads a world-class team of investigative reporters. I could go on . and on.

Accordingly, I can hardly doubt that your collective conscience will be shocked by Haley's still pristine prize, quell your conflict of interest, and put an end to the inverted Gentlemen's Agreement that disesteems your organization.

In sum, if you act appropriately (i.e., ethically and honorably) on the Roots matter, you will at last forsake the Pulitzer's inverted racism and perhaps take the edge off the fact that the Mormons integrated their priesthood a year before the Board did the same for theirs in 1979.

I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for your consideration.

You may be astonished to learn, as I was, that the Pulitzer's original Gentlemen's Agreement, that is, its long, sad record of barring blacks from the Board, is invisible on the Pulitzer website. Nothing appears on the subject under "Frequently Asked Questions" searches for "racial discrimination by the Pulitzer Prize Board" and "first blacks on the Pulitzer Prize Board" likewise come up empty. Even the site's bios of Roger Wilkins and William Raspberry, who crossed the color line together on the 1979-1980 Board, contain no mention of their breakthrough. For visual confirmation of the Board's racial evolution compare photos of the last ivory hurrah of 1978-1979 with the next year's slightly ebony cast.

Double-checking on the above information, I emailed the Pulitzer office on June 1: "Would it be fair to conclude that your organization has deliberately covered up its apartheid past? Or am I missing something?"

Three days later, administrator Canedy replied none too expansively: "Thank you for your letter, we have noted its contents. We will add it to the file of your correspondence."

The Blackest Season In NFL History

In 1933, the National Football League suddenly became monochromatic. The “gentleman’s agreement” to ban black players was reportedly set in motion , poetically enough, by the owner of the Washington franchise that still uses a racial slur as its team name. Baseball, then the national pastime, was conspicuously a white-only affair. Professional football was still a niche sport at the time, and thus could practice its discrimination more discreetly. Even the breaking of its color line in 1946 ― with two signings each by the Los Angeles Rams and Cleveland Browns ― seems all but forgotten in the context of Jackie Robinson’s debut the following year.

Things are different now, and they are not. The NFL’s 32 franchises are still owned almost universally by white people, but the percentage of black players hovers just above 70 percent . Those athletes play mostly for the pleasure of a majority-white fan base . Still, it was tough to describe the NFL before this season as unmistakably black, despite the epidermal clarity. The league’s own mechanisms for generating fan interest have aided in the distillation of the players’ humanity to injury reports and fantasy points. The race of its players only seemed to come up in maudlin pre-game feature segments about the rough neighborhoods from which their NFL fortunes delivered them. African American life, through the lens of pro sports, has largely been something to escape, and the playing field or the court is both the means of deliverance and the promised land.

As the 2017 NFL season ends with the Super Bowl on Sunday, it’s clear that something has changed. This season, NFL players have broadcast their blackness in a fashion that white people can no longer ignore.

This was the season when every single team failed to sign free agent Colin Kaepernick , despite a paucity of good quarterback play and an especially large number of injuries to starters throughout the league. Kaepernick, only 29, had one of the lower interception rates in the league in 2016, and led the San Francisco 49ers to the edge of victory in Super Bowl XLVII . He started the season wanting to play, but ended it as he began: unemployed.

However, thanks to his own activism off the field and the players he inspired to follow his lead ― men like Michael and Martellus Bennett, Malcolm Jenkins and Eric Reid ― Kaepernick became a man in full, and one of most influential people in America. The political fire Kaepernick stoked during the 2016 preseason by kneeling during the pregame national anthem, a protest designed to call attention to racial injustice in all its forms, became a conflagration in 2017.

The league has had moments like this before, when black players have made their race, and racial injustice, impossible to ignore. Hall of Famer Jim Brown was an activist during his playing days in Cleveland, working for black economic empowerment and bringing fellow NFL athletes and stars from other leagues together in 1967 to support Muhammad Ali’s refusal to join the military.

But shows of black political power within player ranks have also been more subtle. While the rate of white quarterbacks remains high, it used to be 100 percent. The mere excellence of men like Warren Moon and Randall Cunningham , along with their steadfast refusal to be repositioned as wide receivers or running backs, opened doors for Kaepernick and countless others to excel at the position. And those men set a precedent for modern players to play the sport in a way does not cater to the white lens. Swagger in the smile of a Cam Newton or the stride of a Deion Sanders as they wreck your team? Even if white viewers didn’t grasp it at the time, those were and are inherently political. This season’s protests have taken that almost unspoken blackness, those underlying subtexts, and made them text once again.

The kneeling was patriotism in a pure and peaceful form, nonviolent pressure for America to get better and to deliver on its centuries-old assurances. The rising number of kneeling players called to mind what the Rev. Martin Luther King said on the day before he was murdered 50 years ago this April. I’m not talking about the part about him going to the mountaintop, but earlier, when King issued his reasonable demands of white American leadership. “All we say to America is, ‘Be true to what you said on paper,’” he said.

Kaepernick’s activism and the solidarity it inspired were the most visible signs of the NFL’s newly unavoidable blackness. Many white Americans, willfully misunderstanding the protests as assaults on the flag, military and national tradition, responded as they so often do to black assertions of presence and power ― with sound and fury.

President Donald Trump poured fuel on that stupid, starting with a September non sequitur during an Alabama campaign speech for failed Senate candidate Luther Strange. The president lashed out at “son of a bitch” players who kneel during the anthem, then continued his weird performance on Twitter throughout the season. He dispatched his vice president to a Colts game , on the taxpayer dime, to stage a huffy retreat when 49ers players kneeled en masse. He even took a barely veiled jab at protesting players in Tuesday’s State of the Union address, implying that those who don’t stand for the anthem lack patriotism.

All of this only helped the players make their case that structural racism is not only real, but will not die out on its own. It must be vanquished by action. In the course of exploiting their conspicuous blackness for the entertainment of his base, Trump actually gave them an assist. I doubt that we’d have seen as many players decide to participate, or the league offer to assist them in their fight for social justice, had he simply responded with a Coke and a smile .

But how does this conspicuous blackness, brought forth by players’ smart provocations, and unconsciously illuminated by the president’s opportunism, truly achieve? For one thing, it has shown, once again, that the “stick to sports” argument is for the birds. Refusing to simply shut up and play, courageous black players continue to put their humanity on full display, even when they aren’t kneeling, underscoring that their heritage is inseparable from their identity and their political priorities. Kaepernick has maximized this moment, shining the spotlight aimed at him onto the very people he sought to help in the first place. His pledge to donate $1 million to various causes, which he made almost immediately after he began his protest, has been completed . Other celebrities have matched the funds . And, after contentious debate, active players he left behind have joined with the NFL owners to begin a series of social justice initiatives, including outreach to community leaders and strategizing how to end systemic racism.

Still, as Howard Bryant reported recently , there is a decisive split among players regarding this strategy ― with Reid, Kaepernick’s former teammate and the first player to join him in kneeling ― leading the faction dissatisfied with the compromise. Already suspicious of the league’s $89 million commitment to social justice causes, Reid believes the deal brokered by Eagles safety Jenkins and other players is designed to stop the protests more than anything else. I suspect that he’s right, because the NFL assuredly watered down the momentum of the protests more than anything Trump did. The league announced its new social justice initiative last week with all the grandeur of a deflated balloon. As of Tuesday, the new “Listen Together” website linked in its press release was still a 404-not found page .

Technology may not be the NFL’s friend right now, but it is continuing to reveal the reality of black lives in America ― even during those three hours of the American Sabbath when millions of us turn on an NFL game. The need for protest didn’t vanish with some largesse from the league.

If Jenkins or any other player on the Super Bowl sideline decides to take a knee or raise a fist this Sunday, I’ll applaud them. The act is not traitorous rather, it is the players refusing to shield their blackness for the comfort of white folks. Nor will it allow them to escape the responsibility we all share for thinking critically about this country, so that we may make it the America of our hymns and myths. It is the latest note in a long refrain being sung by black people in this nation, including King, imploring the United States to do better by us. The perfect vessels for that message just might be the only black men who white people cheer for on a weekly basis.

Anti-Japanese Legislation: 1889-1924

Washington State Constitution, 1889

The prohibition of alien land ownership was included in the original 1889 version of the Washington State constitution. This was not true of the constitutions of other western states with significant alien populations. The primary reason for the alien land article was that the Washington constitution (unlike states that pre-dated Washington) was enacted after the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act.

Article II, Section 33 - “OWNERSHIP OF LANDS BY ALIENS, PROHIBITED - Exceptions - The ownership of lands by aliens, other than those who in good faith have declared their intention to become citizens of the United States, is prohibited in this state, except where acquired by inheritance, under mortgage or in good faith in the ordinary course of justice in the collection of debts and all conveyances of lands hereafter made to any alien directly or in trust for such alien shall be void: Provided, That the provisions of this Section shall not apply to lands containing valuable deposits of minerals, metals, iron, coal, or fire-clay, and the necessary land for mills and machinery to be used in the development thereof and the manufacture of the products therefrom. Every corporation, the majority of the capital stock of which is owned by aliens, shall be considered on alien for the purposes of this prohibition.”1

Immigration Act of Feb 20, 1907

This federal legislation created new categories of immigrants that would be denied entry to the United States. Most relevant to the Japanese was the exclusion of people designated as contract laborers. The act also allowed President Theodore Roosevelt to deny entry to United States from Canada, Mexico, and Hawaii (an opportunity taken by Roosevelt on March 14, 1907).2 Until the 1907 act, many Japanese laborers were coming to the United States via these countries.

Gentlemen’s Agreement, 1908

Theodore Roosevelt’s presidential order of March 14, 1907 had stemmed the flow of Japanese immigration from Canada, Mexico, and Hawaii. The Gentlemen’s Agreement was an unofficial and undocumented treaty that confronted direct immigration. Japan was to issue passports only to those who had previously been admitted to the United States. The Gentlemen’s Agreement did allow for Japanese men living in the United States to send for their wives and children in Japan.3

Immigration Act of Feb 5, 1917

To further restrict Japanese and general Asian immigration, the 1917 act contained two key elements. One was the addition of a literacy test which stated that any person over sixteen years of age had to be literate in some language in order to enter the United States. The other was a major shift to a Caucasian only immigration policy. The 1917 act created a “barred zone” in Southeast Asia.4 “The barred zone roughly included parts of China, all of India, Burma, Siam, the Malay States, the Asian part of Russia, part of Arabia, part of Afghanistan, most of the Polynesian Islands and the East Indian Islands.”5

Washington State House Bill Number 79: January 27, 1921

During the seventeenth regular session, the Washington State House of Representatives added to the constitutional alien land restrictions. The new legislation extended the alien land laws beyond ownership to limit leasing and renting. The bill also made it a crime for anyone to sell land to an alien, hold land in trust or fail to report alien land use violations to the State Attorney General or local prosecutor.6

Immigration Act of May 19, 1921

The 1921 Immigration Act was the first to include any quantitative restrictions on immigration. The Asian “barred zone” was upheld, but all other immigration was limited to three percent of the foreign-born population of any given group in the United States at the time of the 1910 census.7

Washington State House Bill Number 70: January 26, 1923

The principal way Japanese and other resident aliens circumvented land laws was to have a minor child with birth-right citizenship hold that land deed. The 1923 House Bill ended this practice by declaring land owned by a minor child to be held in trust for an alien (illegal under the 1921 Bill).8This heavily restrictive alien land law stayed in effect until its repeal in 1965.9

Immigration Act of May 26, 1924

Continuing the trend of restriction, the 1924 Immigration Act used a stricter quota system to further reduce the number of admitted immigrants. While the three percent quota stayed the same, the figures were calculated from the 1890 census. As a result, the total quota number for all immigrants was cut by more than half to approximately 165,000 people.10 A key section of the 1924 Act denied immigration to persons ineligible for naturalization. Because Japanese immigrants were not among those who could become citizens virtually all Asiatic immigration had been ended.11

1 Washington (State). 1889. Constitution. W.H. Hughes Co. Seattle, Wa. Pg. 12.

2 Chuman, Frank F. 1976. “The Bamboo People: The Law and Japanese-Americans”. Publishers Inc., Del Mar, California. Pg 30-32

4 Hutchinson, E.P. 1981. “Legislative History of American Immigration Policy, 1798-1965”. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, PA. Pg 166-167

5 Auerbach, Frank L. 1961. “Immigration Laws of the United States, 2nd Ed.” Bobbs-Merrill, Inc. Indianapolis, IN and Ney York, NY. Pg 8

6 Washington (State). Legislature. House of Representatives. 1921. House Bill Number 79. Olympia, Wa.

7 Hutchinson, E.P. 1981. Pg 180

8 Washington (State). Legislature. House of Representatives. 1923. House Bill Number 70. Olympia, Wa.

9 Washington (State). Washington Courts Washington State Constitution. Viewed November 10, 2005.

10 Auerbach, Frank L. 1961. Pg 10

For addition information see the related research report:

A rising tide of anti-immigrant and anti-radical politics swept the United States following World War I, and Seattle area politicians played an important role. It’s well-documented that defeat of the Seattle General Strike of 1919 helped pave the way for anti-labor campaigns across the country. But less well known is the fact that national anti-immigrant politics, particularly anti-Japanese politics of the post-World War I era, had important roots in the Pacific Northwest.

This paper looks at 1920 committee hearings convened by Congressman Albert Johnson on the question of whether to bar Japanese immigration and citizenship claims. Johnson was the co-author of sweeping 1924 legislation that effectively closed America’s borders to non-white immigrants for the next forty years. And his use of hearings in his home district to promote a national version of white supremacy reveals much about the racial politics of post-WWI Seattle and about Seattle’s role in national debates over who could and could not be considered “American.”

Members of the United States Congress arrived in Elliot Bay aboard a steamship on the afternoon of Sunday, July 25, 1920.1 This delegation was part of the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization, which was in the midst of an investigation on issues surrounding Japanese peoples on the west coast. Their local investigation commenced in the Seattle courtroom of Judge E.E. Cushman. They broke for lunch at the Rainier Club, took an impromptu tour of Pike Place Market, and retired to Paradise Lodge in the Mount Rainier National Park during recess.2 The committee would stay in the area for over a week, hearing hours of testimony related to the local situation surrounding the Japanese.

A Change in Asian Immigration

Increased industrialization and infrastructure around the turn of the century created a great demand for cheap labor in the United States. Initially Chinese immigrants provided low cost labor. In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act stopped the flow of immigrants, and thus the major source of labor on the west coast. Japanese were the primary immigrant group to fill the demand for labor left behind by the Chinese. Initially employed by railroad companies and factories, Japanese immigrants quickly started their own businesses and communities.

The Japanese victory over Russia in 1905 established Japan as a geopolitical rival in Pacific. The increased awareness of Japanese power by the United States helped both to aid and inhibit the anti-Japanese agitation that was developing on the west coast.3 Local organizations mobilized to create anti-Japanese propaganda while President Theodore Roosevelt urged caution to prevent insulting the Japanese government. The following years brought the first federal legislation dealing specifically with Japan as well as the controversial “Gentleman’s Agreement”. During World War I immigration restriction was focused primarily on Germans, Bolsheviks, Communists, and anarchists. The post-war rise of American nationalism increased support for a broader and increasingly racist immigration policy. As part of this movement, the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization began to investigate issues surrounding Japanese immigrants in the United States. After conducting preliminary hearings in Washington D.C. during the summer of 1919, the Committee scheduled a more comprehensive investigation for California (the state with the largest Japanese population) the following year. The main topics of thee hearings were: was the “Gentleman’s Agreement” being adhered to by Japan? Could Japanese immigrants be assimilated into American society? and should Japanese immigrants be eligible for naturalization?

Japanese Hearings Come to Washington

In response to lobbyists and Washington Governor Louis Hart, the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization extended the scheduled 1920 hearings on the Pacific Coast Japanese question to the State of Washington. Local Japanese politics were not foreign to the Congressional committee or federal level politicians. They had received previous statements from prominent Seattleites such as businessman and publisher Miller Freeman, Presbyterian pastor Mark A Matthews, and local Japanese missionary U.G. Murphy. The chairman of the committee was also Washington State Congressman Albert Johnson, a long-time crusader for more restrictive immigration legislation. Johnson had a history of racial agitation in Washington State. As editor, he had long used his Grays Harbor newspaper to attack Asian immigrants and he pointedly supported a 1907 riot that forced hundreds of South Asians in Bellingham, Washington to flee the United States for Canada.4 Johnson also encouraged local anti-Japanese agitation at a Tacoma American Legion meeting less than one month before the 1920 hearings.5

Including Johnson, the committee contained fifteen members. All but six remained in California to conduct further investigation during the Washington State proceedings.6 The hearings commenced at 9:30 AM on July 26, 1920 in the federal courthouse in Seattle. The testimony continued in Seattle until July 29, at which point they were moved to Tacoma for a single day on August 2, returning to Seattle for the final day on August 3. The primary voices included were that of the Seattle Ministerial Union, American Legion and Veterans Welfare Commission, local immigration officials, farmers, and local Japanese. The hearings also included scattered testimony from organized labor and female citizens concerned about Japanese morality. Also in the transcript of the hearings is a vast quantity of statistics on the local Japanese community. Included are immigration data, birth rates, and complete listings of all Japanese businesses in and around Seattle. After the testimony, the record concludes with a summary of the Japanese situations in both Oregon and California.

Anti-Japanese League

Why did the hearings come to Seattle? Some speculated that Governor Hart’s term was nearly up, and the Republican-led committee timed the hearings to garner support for his November re-election bid.7 It was Seattle’s Anti-Japanese League, however, waged the campaign to extend the congressional hearings to Washington.

The League was primarily comprised of members of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Washington State’s Veteran’s Welfare Commission (VFW). The Anti-Japanese League was founded in1916 by former Washington State legislator and director of the local United States Naval training facility, Miller Freeman. Freeman was the League’s president at the time of the congressional hearings. He had also been appointed to the head of the Washington State VFW by Governor Hart.8 Freeman had testified before the committee in Washington D.C. in 1919 and was asked by Chairman Johnson to solicit additional anti-Japanese witnesses. In the 1919 testimony, Freeman framed his animosity toward Japanese immigrants in the context of competition for control over the Pacific Rim: “To-day, in my opinion, the Japanese of our country look upon the Pacific coast really as nothing more than a colony of Japan, and the whites as a subject race.”9

Adding to this sense of conflict was the strong military presence at the Seattle and Tacoma hearings, which worried the Seattle Union Record, the city’s labor newspaper.

Another feature of the inquiry is the presence of a military group in the background that keeps in constant touch with Mr. Johnson or Mr. Raker of the committee. This group composed of men like Miller Freeman, Colonel Inglis, Philip Tindall, does not make a pleasant decoration for an inquiry on Oriental affairs-an inquiry that should be kept as far from military influence as it is possible to keep it.10

This statement made by Seattle Union Record Editor Harry Ault was powerful enough to command the notice of the congressional committee. Congressman Raker went so far as to confront Ault about his editorial statement, and to deny that there had been any closed-door meetings with military representatives.11

Yet despite the military context, Freeman’s testimony in support of restricting Japanese immigration was based almost entirely upon economic rationalizations. After introductory testimony by Governor Hart, Freeman was the first to give testimony to the congressional committee. First, he claimed, Japanese were taking jobs away from World War I veterans returning from Europe. This argument would be elaborated upon when Director of the Veteran’s Welfare Commission Colonel W.M. Inglis testified that Japanese at the Stetson-Post Mill Co. received twenty jobs that supposedly should have gone to veterans in the spring of 1919. When asked by Chairman Johnson what had happened when Japanese laborers were in competition with a group of veterans for twenty mill jobs Colonel Inglis responded: “The result was the Japanese were employed and the ex-service men were not.”12

The other chief concern voiced explicitly by Freeman and others was that Japanese immigrants were taking over certain business sectors from their Caucasian competitors. Freeman stated: “My investigation of the situation existing in the city of Seattle convinced me that the increasing accretions of the Japanese were depriving the young white men of the opportunities that they are legitimately entitled to in this State.”13 Shut out of local unions, Japanese had been forced into business, finding considerable successes primarily in agriculture and residential hotel ownership. These successes were the main source of agitation for the Anti-Japanese League, whose prominent members could no longer control the local Japanese population.

Seattle Star Promotes Anti-Japanese Agitation

Both in California and Washington, newspapers and newspaper men were prominent in creating anti-Japanese sentiment. The publisher of The Sacramento Bee, V.S. McClatchy, was perhaps the most outspoken anti-Japanese agitator in California.14 House Committee Chairman Albert Johnson had been in the newspaper business for two decades prior to the Washington State hearings, having published The Seattle Times, The Tacoma News, and The Grays Harbor Daily.15

The Seattle Star was the primary anti-Japanese voice in the Puget Sound area. In the weeks preceding the congressional hearings, The Seattle Star ran a series of articles that portrayed local Japanese in a negative light. One three-part series written by George N. Mills and beginning on May 19, 1920 was titled “The Japanese Invasion AND ‘Shinto, the Way of the Gods.’”16 From the beginning of the article, Mills expresses his desire to “…impress more emphatically on the mind of the American reader the certain disastrous consequences of future Oriental immigration, and why our present policies as regards certain Asiatics should be forever abandoned.”17 Mills describes the Shinto religion as the basis for life in Japanese culture and government, going so far as to say that, “religion and government in Japan have been one and the same in the past as well as the present.”18 Mills uses this premise to argue that any person of Japanese heritage who practices the Shinto religion will be ultimately devoted to the government of Japan. This idea was certainly on the minds of the congressional committee when they questioned Japanese witnesses about their loyally to Japan and willingness to perform military service for Japan or the United States.19 Mills continued the anti-Japanese agitation in his third installment when he stated that “If our present policies with Japan continue indefinitely, it will only be a matter of time when at best we will be no better than a subject race.”20

Beyond the Mills piece, The Seattle Star ran smaller anti-Japanese pieces on nearly a daily basis leading up to the hearings. ““Spy” Film is Killed by Japs”21, “Say Jap Choked White Woman”22, Charge Jap Stole White Wife’s Love”23, and “One-Third of Our Hotels Jap Owned”24 read some of the headlines between May and July of 1920. The Seattle Star was also quick to cover the protests by anti-Japanese organizations and their efforts to focus federal attention on the local Japanese question. This included appeals to labor groups to support anti-Japanese legislation, coverage of petitions by veterans groups to Governor Hart, and attacks on local ministers for their continued support of the Japanese.

Although coverage from other local publications (The Seattle Times, The Seattle Union Record, and The Town Crier) was not pro-Japanese, the coverage provided was more balanced and less inflammatory. While The Seattle Star signaled its position with an inflammatory front page headline after the first day of the congressional testimony: “EXCLUSION! The Solution That Means Peace,”25 the traditionally radical _Seattle Union Record_ambiguously reported: “We withhold judgment concerning the testimony before the congressional committee of inquiry of Oriental affairs, until it is finished in Seattle.”26

Anti-Japanese Politics in City Hall

In the summer of 1920, the Seattle Star and the Anti-Japanese League’s exclusionary politics fused in a campaign against Japanese hog farmers. The campaign was one of the most overt attempts at limiting the livelihoods of Seattle’s Japanese during the time of the hearings. The Seattle Star reported that Japanese farmers were paying too high a price for restaurant swill (the primary source of sustenance for local hogs). The fear was that Japanese would price white farmers out of the swill market, and thereby drive white hog farmers out of business. Supposedly, once a monopoly had been established, the Japanese would escalate the price of pork products to recover the capital invested in the high-priced swill.27

Seattle City Councilman and Anti-Japanese League member Phillip Tindall was at the center of the campaign against Japanese hog farmers. Tindall proposed a bill that would change the way in which restaurant swill was collected. The Tindall bill called for a city-wide restaurant garbage collection contract. As a direct strike at the Japanese hog farmers, the Tindall bill specified that the garbage collection contract could only be entered by a citizen of the United States (a privilege not granted to Japanese immigrant farmers).28 If ratified, the Tindall bill would have virtually eliminated Japanese farmers from the hog business.

As part of the general anti-Japanese agitation, the sanitation and general operation of Japanese owned hog farms was also called into question. A letter to the editor of the Seattle Star penned by King County Health Officer H.T. Sparling complained that “The condition of some of these (Japanese owned) ranches is indescribable.” Nevertheless, Sparling went on to describe rat infested conditions and filthy meat being taken to the market for human consumption. In closing, Sparling stated, “I am strongly in favor of the ordinance introduced by Councilman Tindall and recommended by Dr. Bead, as it tends to centralize the industry and will make supervision easy.”29

The Tindall bill was passed by the Seattle City Council on June 21, 1920 by a vote of five to two. The bill was said to break up the Japanese “garbage collection monopoly” as well as add $50,000 to the city’s budget once a new collection contract was reached with a non-Japanese bidder.30 The garbage collection bill was seen as a potential trend setter for new bills that could further limit Japanese advances in other business realms. The Seattle Star editorialized, “We must stop the Japs at every opportunity we get. The Tindall bill is one of those opportunities.”31

Not all Seattleites agreed that the Tindall bill would be an effective or moral means of controlling Japanese commerce. _The_Town Crier gave the “…inside dope on the Tindall garbage bill, a measure that was camouflaged as one of sanitation but later came out into the open as intended primarily to put Japanese hog ranchers out of business.”32 This same piece from The _Town Crier_implicates local hog rancher I.W. Ringer (supposedly the only rancher with the capacity to bid on the garbage collection contract) as another driving force behind the Tindall bill. Less than a week after its initial passage, the Tindall garbage bill was vetoed by Seattle Mayor Hugh Caldwell. After supporters failed to bring the matter back to the City Council for a potential override, the Tindall bill died on August 1, 1920 (the thirty day deadline after the Caldwell veto).33

Japanese Americans Testify

A small yet interesting portion of the hearings took place on the second day of testimony when several Japanese immigrants and second generation Japanese Americans appeared before the committee. The most prominent member of the Seattle Japanese community to testify was Mr. D. Matsumi. Matsumi was the general manager of M. Suruya Company (dealing with the import and export of general goods), as well as the president of the United North American Japanese Associations. This organization branched to Montana and Alaska, independent from its counterparts in Oregon and California.35

Matsui was able to offer a very detailed census of the local Japanese population based on data his Japanese association had collected over the previous four years. The private census included complete data on Japanese children in the local school system, Japanese churches, hotels, and farms. The most complete data in the census record pertains to the birth and death rates of Japanese (and Chinese) in Washington State. Beyond the state records, there is also similar data collected from every major county in the state between 1910 and 1917, comparing the Japanese birth rate to that of whites in the same areas. At the end of this section of the census is a month by month record of birth and death rates from 1915 through early 1920. This section gives the best regional perspective as it includes, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska.36 Mr. Matsui used this information to refute a frequent racist charge made against the Japanese: that they were reproducing at an alarming rate. The figures provided by the census proved this charge to be blatantly false. The committee was primarily concerned with how the census data was collected, but paid some attention to the condition of the educational system in regards to Japanese children.

Mr. Matsui chose not to directly refute charges brought against the local Japanese community by anti-Japanese witnesses. Instead, he portrayed Japanese immigrants as industrious Americans. In a written statement, he tried to give a historical perspective of Japanese in the region. Responding to accusations of unfair farming practices he reported, “According to these facts it seems to me that the Japanese farmer is more intensive in dairy farming than the other people engaged in the same business. The amount of milk produced per acre and the number of cows per acre on the farms operated by the Japanese is larger than that produced by others. In other words, there is less waste and the farming itself is conducted on a more intensive basis.”37

The five remaining Japanese to testify were not first generation, or Issei, immigrants. They were second generation, many of them American citizens, or Nissei. Reflecting the recent nature of Japanese immigration to the Northwest, they were all quite young, ranging in age from fourteen to twenty three. Chairman Johnson had described this portion of the hearings as an opportunity “to hear the leading Japanese representatives.”38 It is significant to note, then, that the Japanese community, rather than showcasing its own internal leadership, instead encouraged its youth to advocate for tolerance, understanding, and equal opportunity for all immigrants and their descendents. They offered themselves as living proof that, contrary to anti-Japanese arguments, Japanese immigrants and their children could assimilate.

Seventeen year old James Sakamoto, who would later become a community leader as editor of the city’s first English language paper for Japanese Americans, The Japanese-American Courier, was the last to testify. His older sister (who at the time was not even a resident of Washington State) also testified. All five statements from the young Japanese were brief, with questions directed at their education status, ability with the Japanese language, and whether the witnesses had any desire to return to Japan. The only diversion from the standard line of questioning took place during the testimony of James Sakamoto, at the time a seventeen year old student at Seattle’s Franklin High School. Sakamoto (who was born in Japan) was asked about his obligation to military service for Japan. He indicated that he would find a way to skirt this responsibility. Colorado Congressman William Vaile asked him, “…suppose you were required to render military service to the United States, what will be your position?” To which Sakamoto responded, “I will go in.”39 Sakamoto would remain true to this sentiment more than twenty years later when defending Japanese-Americans in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attack. He stated that Japanese “will remain unswervingly loyal to the United States” and also the “first to uncover any saboteurs.”[40

Seattle Ministerial Union

One group intent on combating the anti-Japanese agitation was the Seattle Ministerial Union. According to the testimony of Seattle minister W.R. Sawhill, pastor of First United Presbyterian Church, “…there are about 250 protestant ministers in the city. They are all, in a way, members of the organization, but I suppose about 100 are paying and voting members.”41 Sawhill, along with Dr. Mark A. Matthews and missionary U.G. Murphy, were important voices before and during the congressional hearings. Both Matthews and Murphy had appeared before the Congressional Committee on Immigration and Naturalization previously in Washington D.C. and were familiar to lawmakers. According to Chairman Albert Johnson, Murphy was singled out as an exemplary voice, and asked to provide additional non-Japanese witnesses to vouch for the character of the local Japanese population.42 In June of 1919, U.G. Murphy had spoken on behalf of the Ministerial Union as part of a series of congressional hearings in Washington D.C. Murphy was clear that the Ministerial Union was against racially based immigration policies: “…it is the discrimination along race lines that causes the tension. Our naturalization law is based on the color scheme, the race line, and that is the offensive point.”43

Prior to the Seattle and Tacoma hearings, the Ministerial Union penned a letter to the committee requesting an investigation into the activities of the Anti-Japanese League and stating their positions on the Japanese question. In its letter dated July 24, 1920 (included in the testimony of W.R. Sawhill), the Seattle Ministerial Union was clearly opposed to any constitutional amendment limiting rights of Japanese Americans or immigrants. They also spoke in favor of unlimited admission of Japanese students as well as equal treatment for immigrants from all countries.44

Because of their history of steering large congregations on political questions and local elections, the Seattle Ministerial Union came under attack from anti-Japanese witnesses as well as The Seattle Star. Dr. Mark A Matthews was a favorite target of the Star, which pointed to his relationship with President Woodrow Wilson as reason to fear his influence on the local and national levels.45 Despite its origins on the West Coast as a Democratic Party movement, immigration restriction was politically a Republican crusade. Wilson, a Democrat, had twice vetoed the immigration legislation that was eventually passed in 1917.46

Dr. Mark A Matthews

Dr. Mark A Matthews was one of the most outspoken opponents of anti-Japanese agitation before and during the Congressional hearings. He was the minister of Seattle’s First Presbyterian Church which at the time boasted nearly a 10, 000 member congregation, making it the largest Presbyterian congregation in the United States (more than double the size of the second largest church). Because of the prominence of First Presbyterian, Dr. Matthews was elected as moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, the national governing body of the Presbyterian denominations. This national position led to an association with United States President Woodrow Wilson. Dr. Matthews visited the White House on numerous occasions, and welcomed President Wilson as a guest for one of his sermons during a visit to Seattle.

Matthews had roots in the southern United States and was a proponent of the fundamentalist movement within the Presbyterian Church.47 He was very active progressive reformer in the local community, crusading against all of the “evils” of the city. In previous years, he had petitioned President Wilson regarding post-World War I treaties with Germany, labor issues and political appointments of his associates. Matthews had a history of swaying his massive congregation on political issues and was credited with helping oust former Seattle Mayor Hiram Gill in 1911.48

Matthews was staunchly opposed to radical labor groups such as the I.W.W., anarchists, and communists. Many of his letters contained anti-Semitic sentiments, accusing Jews of supporting radical left-wing causes. In one of his more colorful statements, Matthews advocated the deportation of thousands of Russian immigrants along with other communists and anarchists. “why,” he asked, “should we allow the gauze dress of American civilization to be destroyed by the torch of anarchy in the hands of these infernal enemy aliens?”49 As an opponent of organized labor, Matthews’s support of the Seattle Japanese community may have been an effort to weaken local unions. The Japanese had maintained solidarity with organized labor during the 1919 Seattle general strike, but almost all local unions excluded Japanese from their membership, and then fiercely competed with non-union Japanese businesses.

During his testimony in front of the congressional committee, Dr. Matthews’s objections to discrimination against Japanese immigrants were based mostly on issues of federal jurisdiction. He felt that any issue dealing with immigration was a treaty issue and that national legislation would only lead to further diplomatic problems.50 Perhaps as part of his anti-labor politics, Dr. Matthews expressed respect for the work ethic and business savvy he identified with Japanese immigrants. He suggested that their entrepreneurial activities made them model Americans. In response to California Congressman John E Raker’s question about Japanese taking over certain industries, Dr. Matthews responded, “Now, no Jap has ever taken over anything in Seattle, or will ever take over anything anywhere else in this country… They bought it, and if you object to a Japanese citizen or immigrant buying a fruit stand, an American sold it to him. Now if it is not right for the Jap to own it, why did the infernal, yellow-backed American sell it to him?”51

The Quiet Voice of Organized Labor

In comparison with the outspoken testimony of ministers, legionnaires, farmers, and immigration officials, organized labor was relatively quiet during the congressional hearings. Two union officials from Tacoma gave brief testimony. One was Thomas A Bishoff, secretary of the Tacoma Cooks’ and Waiters’ Union, and the other H.C. Pickering, secretary of the Tacoma Barbers’ Union. Both were relative outsiders to the general feeling of local organized labor and admitted most of their testimony was personal feeling or hearsay.

Both Bishoff and Pickering were questioned about Japanese participation in their respective industries in the city of Tacoma. When asked to speculate about what might happen if Japanese barbers were to attempt to open shops in the Tacoma harbor area (where there were only white barbers), Pickering responded: “Now down on the harbor, down where there are no Japanese barbers, there is a prejudice down there.”52 He indicated that there would likely be considerable strife if Japanese barbers attempted to locate themselves in the harbor area of Tacoma.

According to Chairman Johnson, requests for labor representatives from the Seattle area went unanswered for unspecified reasons.53 A key feature of the testimony from the labor representatives was a sentiment that Japanese were only a limited threat to the laboring class. Chairman Johnson expressed this point of view explicitly: “Now, we have been confronted with statements in this record to the effect that labor in Seattle had ceased to object to the admission of the Japanese on the ground that he had ceased to become a competitor of labor itself and was a competitor of the small business man.”54

Japanese immigrants originally came to the Pacific Northwest in the late nineteenth century under the recruitment of the Great Northern Railway Company. Early immigrants chiefly worked as laborers for the railroad or lumber companies.55 By the time of the Seattle and Tacoma immigration hearings, the climate of the Japanese workforce had changed drastically. In 1920, a large percentage of the Japanese in the Seattle area were engaged in farming or businesses such as restaurants, hotels, groceries, laundries, and barber shops. The labor movement that had been such a pivotal factor in the nineteenth century Chinese exclusion was dealing with a much different situation in the Japanese. Though excluded by organized labor, the Japanese had formed their own unions, often times abiding by many of the same regulations as their mainstream counterparts.56 This voluntary conformity may have been another potential factor in the lack of organized labor opposition. The Japanese had demonstrated their willingness to be loyal union members. Abiding by the same pay scales and shop standards as white unions meant that Japanese labor would not under-sell white labor. Although only officially recognized in the machinists and timber workers unions, members of Japanese unions had also shown their solidarity by refusing to be scab workers during the 1916 longshoremen’s strike and the 1919 general strike.57

Harry Ault testifies

“Who is this E.B. Ault that submitted his liberal, temperate and considered views on the Japanese question this week before the immigration committee? Can it be possible that he is the editor of that exponent of wild-eyed radicalism, The Union Record?”58

–The Town Crier, August 7, 1920.

Some of the most interesting testimony took place on the final day of the congressional hearings in Seattle. Erwin B. (Harry) Ault was the final witness to testify. In one of the longer statements throughout the proceedings, Ault cautiously spoke for the Central Labor Council of Seattle. Ault took a purely economic stance on the question of Japanese immigration and naturalization. Although he opposed future “Asiatic” immigration, he lobbied for equal rights and pay for all Japanese workers already in the United States. He expressed that any limitation on the earning power of Japanese laborers would only be detrimental to the general living standards of the American worker.59 He presented the marginalization of Japanese labor as a tool used by business owners to lower the wage scale for workers of all races. Ault was insistent on distancing himself and organized labor from any racial element in the Japanese question: “I say any prejudice, simply because a man’s skin is dark or fair-I don’t think that is a fair estimate of a man’s ability or capacity or usefulness to society or his right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”60

Ault was the only pro-Japanese witnesses to not condemn intermarriage between whites and Asian peoples. After some pointed questioning by a seemingly shocked Congressmen John Raker who asked Ault, “You would leave the young people of the United States at liberty, without any law, to choose their mates, to intermarry as they see fit?” Ault responded, “Absolutely.”61 The Town Crier, which associated union advocacy with simple-minded bigotry, commented on Ault’s testimony: “Perforce, he wonders why Mr. Ault cannot apply some of the same common sense, clear thinking and tolerance to the consideration of other matters that occupy the attention of The Union Record.”62

Congressman Johnson went on to co-author the 1924 law that drastically curtailed most immigration to the United States considered non-white, including Japanese. Seattle’s anti-Japanese forces— particularly Miller Freeman,the Anti-Japanese League, The Seattle Star, and, increasingly, Teamsters union—continued their agitation for another generation helping to set the stage for the persecution and internment of Washington’s Japanese American population during World War II.

But Washington’s hearings on Japanese immigration did not just signal a rising tide of anti-immigrant racism. They also helped inspire a young James Sakamoto to promote Japanese American citizenship claims. The year after the hearings, Sakamoto co-founded the Seattle Progressive Citizens League in 1921, a predecessor and model for the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL). His leadership and the efforts of other Nissei activists were part of a broader movement against anti-Japanese and anti-Asian racism that would run counter to American exclusionary politics for the rest of the century.

Copyright © Doug Blair 2006
HSTAA 499 Summer and Spring 2005

1 The Seattle Times. July 26, 1920. Pg 5.

3 Higham, John. Send These to Me: Immigrants in Urban America. The Johns Hopkins University Press. Baltimore and London. 1984: Pg 50.

4 Mae Ngai. Impossible Subjects: illegal aliens and the making of modern America. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004. pp. 48, 288.

5 The Tacoma Daily Ledger. July 2, 1920. Pg 4.

6 United States. Congress. House. Committee on Immigration and Naturalization. Japanese Immigration. Hearings before the Committee on immigration and naturalization, House of representatives, Sixty-sixth Congress, second session. Washington, Govt. Print. Off., 1921: Pg 1056.

7 Magden, Ronald E. Furusato: Tacoma-Pierce County Japanese, 1888-1988. R-4 Printing Inc. Tacoma, WA. 1998. Pg 61.

8 Neiwert, David A. Strawberry Days. Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. New York, New York: Pg 57.

9 United States. Congress. House. Committee on Immigration and Naturalization. Percentage Plans for Restriction of Immigration, House of Representatives, Sixty-sixth Congress, first session. Washington. Govt. Print. Off., 1920: Pg 230.

10 The Seattle Union Record. July 27, 1920: Editorial Page.

11 United States. Congress. House. Committee on Immigration and Naturalization. Pg 1436.

14 Gulick, Sidney Lewis. Should Congress Enact Special Laws Affecting Japanese? New York, New York. National Committee on Japanese Relations. 1922: Pg 85.

15 Dictionary of American Biography. Supplement Six. New York, New York. Scribner. 1980. Pg 320.

16 The Seattle Star. May 19, 1920. Pg

19 United States. Congress. House. Committee on Immigration and Naturalization. Pg 1201.

20 The Seattle Star. May 21, 1920. Pg 17.

21 The Seattle Star. May 26, 1920. Pg 16.

22 The Seattle Star. June 1, 1920. Pg 16.

23 The Seattle Star. June 3, 1920. Pg 1.

24 The Seattle Star. July 1, 1920. Pg 15.

25 The Seattle Star. July 27, 1920. Pg 1.

26 The Seattle Union Record. July 27, 1920. Editorial Page.

27 The Seattle Star. June 25, 1920. Pg 8.

29 The Seattle Star. May 27, 1920. Pg 7.

30 The Seattle Star. June 22, 1920. Pg 2.

31 The Seattle Star. June 26, 1920. Pg 6.

32 The Town Crier. August 21, 1920. Pg 4-5.

33 The Seattle Star. July 27, 1920. Pg 1.

34 The Seattle Times, July 27, 1920: Pg 8.

36 United States. Congress. House. Committee on Immigration and Naturalization, Pg 1187-1189.

41 United States. Congress. House. Committee on Immigration and Naturalization. Pg 1211.

43 United States. Congress. House. Committee on Immigration and Naturalization. Percentage Plans for Restriction of Immigration, House of Representatives, Sixty-sixth Congress, first session. Washington. Govt. Print. Off., 1920: Pg 82

45 The Seattle Star. May 18, 1920. Pg 1.

47 Russell, C. Allyn. Journal of Presbyterian History, Vol 57, Number 4 (Winter, 1979). Pg 446-466.

48 Berner, Richard C. Seattle 1900-1920, From Boomtown, Urban turbulence, to Restoration. Charles Press, 1991. Seattle, Washington. Pg 118.

49 Matthews, Mark A. Mark A. Matthews Papers, University of Washington Special Collections, Box 5. Personal Letter to President Woodrow Wilson, November 26, 1919.

50 United States. Congress. House. Committee on Immigration and Naturalization. Pg 1083.

54 United States. Congress. House. Committee on Immigration and Naturalization. Pg 1417.

56 Frank, Dana. Race Relations and the Seattle Labor movement, 1915-1929. Pacific Northwest Quarterly, Number 86 (Winter 1994 &frasl1995). Pg 40.

58 The Town Crier. August 7, 1920. Pg 4.

59 United States. Congress. House. Committee on Immigration and Naturalization. Pg 1424.

National University of Singapore, Singapore

National University of Singapore, Singapore


The Gentlemen's Agreement was a series of informal and nonbinding arrangements between Japan and the United States in 1907–8, in which the Japanese government agreed to voluntarily restrict issuing passports good for the continental United States to laborers while the US government promised to protect the rights of Japanese immigrants and their children already living in the United States. The goal of this agreement was to calm down immigration disputes and war scares that had escalated in these countries. The agreement was made without formal ratification, and its contents were not revealed to the public until it was harshly criticized in the early 1920s. It was eventually nullified by the enactment of the US Immigration Act of 1924. While the Gentlemen's Agreement between Japan and the United States has been relatively well known, the Japanese government simultaneously entered into a similar but less known agreement with the Canadian government.

Watch the video: Chinese Exclusion Act and Gentlemens Agreement