“The first bill I shall introduce will be one to admit Hawaii to Statehood”

From 1849 to 1959, Hawaiians repeatedly attempted to become a state. In 1849, pressure from Britain and France forced King Kauikeaouli Kamehameha III prepared a provisional deed ceding the Kingdom of Hawaii to the United States. He gave the letter to the United States Commissioner, but as the pressure decreed, it was never implemented.

In 1854, the king singed an order, directing the Minister of Foreign Relations to find out how the United States viewed annexation, and the terms and conditions they would agree to. The Hawaiian government drafted a treaty that August, for Hawaii to obtain full statehood, but the informal negotiations fell apart. Over thirty years later, on September 8, 1897, the Republic of Hawaii ratified an annexation treaty, which a joint resolution of Congress accepted as the Newlands Resolution, which President McKinley signed.

It was not until April 30, 1900, when Preisdent McKinley signed the Organic Act, that established the government of the Territory of Hawaii that all those who had been citizens of the Republic of Hawaii on August 12, 1898, were now citizens of the Territory of Hawaii and the United States.

Although Hawaii’s first Territorial Delegate to Congress, Robert Wilcox pledged that his first bill he would introduce would be to allow Hawaii to become a state, and by 1940, 67% of Hawaiians voted in favor of statehood in the general election – it was not until 1958 when Delegate John Burns, Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson and Democratic Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn, negotiated a two-step process admitting Alaska as the 49th state in 1958 and Hawaii as the 50th state in 1959.

Shortly before Hawaii achieved statehood, in March 1959, Life magazine published an article, “Hawaii—Beauty, Wealth, Amiable People,” which included several color photographs of the people and places of Hawaii, including a Dole pineapple plantation and children learning a Mamala paddle dance to honor of Lono, the god of peace and agriculture.

On March 11, 1959, the Senate and the House of Representatives passed the statehood bill, which President Eisenhower signed on March 18, 1959. Finally, on August 18, Hawaii was admitted into the United States. On August 24, Senators Oren E. Long, Hiram L. Fong, and Representative Daniel K. Inouye took their oaths of office in Washington D.C. Representative Inouye became Hawaii’s first voting memebr of the U.S. House of Representatives.

In 2003, the Hawaii Legislature passed a bill to organized events to celebrate Admission Day on the weekend of August 15 through 17.

However, in recent decades, the attitude toward celebrating Hawaiian statehood, and Hawaiian statehood in general, has changed. In 1959, more than 90% of the public supported statehood. There was dancing in the streets and fireworks at the Iolani Palace. Governor Ben Cayetano – the first Filipino-American governor in the U.S. —and the nation. – did celebrate Statehood Day, from San Francisco in 2000, and issued a public statement in 2002, he had since ceased commemorating the day, citing it as too controversial. His successors have felt the same, and have refused to celebrate, though Gov. Linda Lingle organized a government conference on the 50th anniversary of Hawaii’s statehood.

For Duty Beyond The Sea

In 1998, Congress declared July 27th of each year until 2003 “National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day” which the President would proclaim annually, to honor those who died during the Korean War (1950-3). 1.8 million Americans fought. 36,574 died and over 7,800 are still missing. As of 2013, there are more than 28,000 Americans still in South Korea. While Congress only mandated marking “National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day” through 2003, the tradition continues, with Florida governor Rick Scott was one of those who proclaimed “National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day” in 2017.

Of those who went to fight, Hallie Duncan of Hannibal, Missouri and Jimmy Bruce of Belham, Kentucky were declared Missing in Action (MIA) in the winter of 1950. In 2003, Sergeant Jimmy Higgins’s and Sergeant Hallie Clark Jr.’s remains were returned to the United States and buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Since 1996, the Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii (CIL-HI) has recovered more than 40 sets of remains from Korea.

The Korean War was began on June 25, 1950 when the North Korean army invaded South Korea. Some of the first troops to arrive in Korea were those who were part of the Occupation Force in Japan. Some, such as Curtis Morrow were sent directly to Korea from the United States. Morrow served in the last all-black unit of the Korean War. President Harry Truman integrated the military in 1948, but it was not until during the Korean War that integration actually happened. Morrow detailed his experiences in his first book, What’s a Commie Ever Done to Black People? A Korean War Memoir of Fighting in the U.S. Army’s Last All Negro Unit.

The Korean War ended on July 27, 1953, which is now officially called Armistice Day, when the tri-lingual Korean Armistice Agreement was signed in Panmunjom. Over the next two years and seventeen days, 155 meetings marked the longest armistice.

On June 1, 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower signed legislation that replaced the word “Armistice” with “Veterans,” making November 11 Veterans Day, during which most Americans now observe the Korean Armistice.

Forty-two years after the Armistice, on July 27, 1995, the Korean War Veterans Memorial was dedicated. It is located near the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall in Washington D.C. The memorial commemorates the 5.8 million Americans who served, and is divided into four parts. The nineteen statues are composed of fourteen Army, three Marine, one Navy, and one Air Force members. The Mural Wall is made by the Cold Spring Granite Company in Cold Spring, Minnesota. It has forty-one panels which measures 164 feet, with more than 2,400 photographs of the Korean War. The last part is the Pool of Remembrance, a reflective pool encircling the Freedom Is Not Free Wall and Alcove. At the base of the Alcove are listed those who were killed, wounded, went missing, or were taken prisoner during the war. Beside the Mural Wall, is the United Nations Wall, listing the twenty-two nations who sent troops to aid the United Nations efforts.

The Korea Society, founded in 1957, when General James Van Fleet and a group of prominent Americans established the first nonprofit organization in the United States, to promote good relations between the United States and Korea. The U.S.-Korea Society in New York and the U.S.-Korea Foundation in Washington DC merged in 1993 to become the Korea Society. The Society hosts an annual ceremony to honor Korean War Veterans at the New York Korean War Veterans Memorial in Battery Park in lower Manhattan in 2016.

“Who does not understand should either learn, or be silent.”


John Dee (13 July 1527 – 1608/9), the English and Welsh mathematician, astronomer, and astrologer was born on July 13, 1527. He was a Cambridge-educated scientist, who did postgraduate work with mapmaker Gerardus Mercator. He became an authority on navigation, and also suggested that England adopt the Gregorian calendar. Although some Tudors may have considered him a philosopher, astrologer, and even a magician, he was mostly a mathematician and chief scientific adviser to Queen Elizabeth I. Using math, Dee created horoscopes, and practiced alchemy, numerology, and astology.

His father Roland Dee was of Welsh descent and was a “gentleman sewer” in King Henry VIII’s court. When Queen Mary I came to the throne in 1553, and began persecuting Protestants, Dee’s father Roland was one those arrested, that August. Although he was released, he was deprived of all of his assets, leaving Dee without an inheritance.

The following year, he was offered a mathematics post at the University of Oxford, which would have alleviated his financial strain, but he refused the offer. On 28 May 1555, Dee was arrested on charges of “calculating” because mathematics was considered analogous to having magical powers. Despite being guilty of the charges, Dee was released after three months.

The following year, Dee presented Queen Mary with plans to build a national library. Though Queen Mary did not support the plan, Dee set off to create his own. Over the next five years, Dee collected books on astronomy, astrology, mathematics, coding, and magic, poetry, and religion. The library at his Mortlake home, which eventually grew larger than the Oxford and Cambridge libraries, had over 4,000 books.

Dee used his other skills for various purposes. He had traveled the Continent and returned to England in 1551 with many navigational instruments. Beginning in 1555, and for the next thirty years, he was a consultant to the Muscovy Company, formed that year by navigator and explorer Sebastian Cabot and many London merchants. It’s goal was to find the Northeast Passage. Some of Dee’s contributions were preparing navigational charts for the polar region and instructing the crew in geometry and cosmography before their voyage to North America in 1576.

When Elizabeth became Queen, Dee’s fortunes changed. Elizabeth asked him to use astrology to select the appropriate coronation day. In 1582, Pope Gregory issued a proclamation that the Gregorian calendar, based on the date of the Council of Nicaea in 325, would be used.

Up to that point, the church had used Roman Empire’s Julian calendar, adopted by the Council of Nicaea in 325, to ensure that Easter was observed at the same time. However, the Julian calendar added an extra ten minutes to the year, and by the 1582, an extra ten days had accumulated. The Council of Trent removed ten days from October 1582 and brought it back to the same astrological alignment as the Council of Nicaea. Roman Catholic countries accepted the new calendar, but most Protestant countries did not.

However, Queen Elizabeth did seriously consider adopting the Gregorian calendar, and chose Dee as an adviser. The following February, Dee propsed that the calendar remove elven days to align it with the astronomical year. While several of Elizabeth’s advisers approved the plan, the Archbishop of Canterbury did not. Dee’s plan failed, and England’s calendar at odds with that in the rest of Europe until 1752.

Dee continued to regain his lost income for the rest of his life. He attempted to gain an appointment as Master of St. John’s Cross, which, though approved by Elizabeth, was not approved by the Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1596, he was appointed warden of the Collegiate Chapter in Manchester. But, tragedy struck a few years later when his wife and several children died of the plague in Manchester in 1605. Dee returned to London and died a few years later.

One of the John Dee Society’s missions – like the Library of Congresses’ attempt to recreate Thomas Jefferson’s library – is to reconstruct Dee’s library, “based on his Catalog of manuscripts and books of 1583, prior to its dispersal throughout Europe.”

Dee has or has reputed to be the subject of many art forms. Christopher Marlowe’s eponymous character from his play Doctor Faustus may have been based on him, as was perhaps the magician Prospero in Shakespeare’s The Tempest. In modern times, he was a character in the Damon Albarn’s opera, Dr Dee, and even the band Iron Maiden’s song The Alchemist.

The second book of Deborah Harkness’s All Souls trilogy, Shadow of Night features John Dee and fellow alchemist Edward Kelly during the early 1590s.

Arthur Dee (13 July 1579 – September or October 1651), John Dee’s eldest son, was born on his father’s 52nd birthday.

In 1583, his family left their Mortlake home and traveled around Europe over the next few years, including in Prague where he lived in one of the houses that belonged to Emperor Rudolph’s astronomer. In 1586, the family settled in Trebon in Southern Bohemia. There John Dee and alchemist Edward Kelly performed alchemical experiments and Arthur witnessed his first alchemical tramsutation, turning base metals into gold.

In 1602, at 21, Arthur married Isabella, daughter of Edward Prestwich de Hulme, a Justice of the Peace in Manchester. There Dee practiced medicine for many years. Three years later, Arthur became a freeman of Mercer’s Company, by patrimony, and also by donating some of his father’s books. The following month, his mother died of the plague, and his father returned to Mortlake. Around that time, Arthur moved to London to set up a practice. Over the next nearly ten years, the Censors of the Royal College of Physicians of London summoned him several times for practicing medicine illegally, though nothing was done until 1614. He was asked on what authority he practiced and told them that medicine was his profession and that he could make a business of it. He was warned to refrain from practicing. At a meeting three weeks later, Dee presented his qualifications, the doctorate and letters patent from the University of Basel. The following May he was questioned again and answered that he was the Queen’s physician and practiced by royal perogative.

Tzar Mikhail and Dee’s paths would cross when went to Russia in 1621. Dee became Tzar Mikhail Romanov’s personal doctor. Earlier that year, King James I had written to him of Dee’s loyal service. Dee’s father had been offered the appointment in Russia, which Dee accepted. He stayed in Moscow for 14 years until his wife became ill due to the climate and died in 1634. In a letter to Tsar Mikhail in 1633, King Charles I called Dee a “skillful and learned Phisitian.” [sic] to Queen Anne.

He returned to England where, by 1635, he was Physician Extraordinary to King Charles I. He retired from the position some years after and went to live in Norwich. He died in October 1651.

“It Took Away The Rest Of My Life”

On June 24, 1973, thirty-two people died after the UpStairs Lounge, a gay bar on Chartres Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana burned from an arson attack. It is the deadliest fire in New Orleans and the second deadliest act of violence against LGBTQ people in U.S. history. Twenty-nine died at the scene, and three died later from their injuries.

Patrons at the bar, who participated in various celebrations, events, and activities, were celebrating the fourth anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. There were around sixty-five people still in the bar around eight pm when the buzzer sounded downstairs. When it continued to ring, the bartender, Douglas “Buddy” Rasmussen sent a regular downstairs. When he opened the door, a fireball burst through the door. The draft sucked the fire upstairs and within second, the walls were burning. Douglas Rasmussen escorted twenty people through the back exit to adjoining rooftops. A few, like Francis Dufrene, whose body was on fire, squeezed through the burglar bars on the windows.

Firefighters extinguished the blaze around sixteen minutes after receiving the call. Many of the victims were so badly burned that they could only be identified by dental records, including several victims who were patients of another victim, Dr. Perry Lane Waters, Jr., a Jefferson Parish dentist. Twenty-nine of the victims, including the only woman, were identified, but three were so badly burned that they were unidentifiable. Fifteen men who leaped from the fire escape were injured, with six in serious condition.

One of the few press articles about the tragedy was a TimesPicayune headline which called the scene “Hitler’s Incinerators.” No public officials spoke about the event, though New Orleans Mayor Moon Landrieu and Governor Edwin Edwards had issued condolences in November after six people died in a fire at the Rault Center, and in January after eight died in an arson at a downtown Howard Johnson’s. Families refused to claim the victims. The three unidentified victims and Ferris LeBlanc, whose family did not know of his death were buried in unmarked graves in a potter’s field. In 2015, LeBlanc’s family – who had accepted his sexuality – learned of his fate. They had lost touch after LeBlanc left California. While they eventually found records, the family was unable to locate LeBlanc’s grave.

Police investigated for two months and issued a 64-page report in August. They found little evidence: a can of lighter fluid at the scene, and two suspects, David Dubose and Roger Nunez neither of whom were ever prosecuted. David Dubose was a teenager who confessed to the crime, though he soon recanted. His alibi was confirmed and he passed a polygraph test. Police focused on their second suspect, Roger Nunez, who had been kicked out of the bar earlier that night for fighting with another patron, according to Michael Scarborough, another patron’s testimony. As he left, Nenuz had said “something to the effect of ‘I’m going to burn this place down,’ or ‘I’m going to burn you out,'” Scarborough told police.

Bur before he could be interviewed, Nunez had a seizure. He was taken to Charity Hospital. When he was released, the police were not notified and it took months for them to find him. When questioned, he denied setting the fire and that he wasn’t sure had been at the Upstairs bar that night. People he knew claimed that he had confessed to the crime. At least one source has inverted the identities of the victims, stating that it was Dubose who patronized the bar that night, and not Nunez.

In the final report, the police department concluded that, “Although there is speculation of arson, as of the writing of this report, there is no physical evidence to indicate anything other than this being a fire of undetermined origin.” The coroner classified all 32 deaths as “accidental fire fatalities.”

It took a week before a church agreed to hold a memorial. St. Mark’s United Methodist Church. Rev. Troy Perry, founder of the MCC, promised to safeguard the mourners’ identities, and offered to let them leave through the back door when television crews appeared outside the front door. No one accepted.

In 2013, composer Wayne Self created a musical “Upstairs,” based on the arson. He has created composite characters of the thirty-two victims. A documentary, “The UpStairs Lounge Fire” was also created that year.

A documentary of the tragedy, Upstairs Inferno premiered in New Orleans on June 24, 2015, the 42nd anniversary. The film has traveled around the world, including many US states, Greece, and Ireland.

ABC also released a documentary, “Prejudice and Pride” on June 24, 2018, the 45th anniversary.

The deadliest attack on LGBTQ people occurred on June 12, 2016 at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The club, located within twenty miles of Disney World, billed itself as “Orlando’s Premier Gay Nightclub.” Saturdays were “Latin Night” at the club. Around two a.m. just before last call, the gunman entered the club, which had around three hundred and twenty people inside. Over the next three hours, when police killed him, he killed thirty-eight in the club. Two other victims died on the street outside the club, and nine died en route or at hospitals.

Unlike in the aftermath of the Upstairs arson, many public officials issued statements. Florida Gov. Rick Scott asserted that “this is clearly an act of terror” and that he had declared a state of emergency in Orange County, ensuring that resources were made available from the state immediately.

The shooting marked the first time that Facebook’s “Safety Check” feature was used in the United States. The feature had been used several dozen times over the last two years, including during the Paris attack in November, 2015 and wildfires in Alberta, Canada in April, 2016.

Over a year later, Pulse owner Barbara Poma announced that the site will become a memorial and museum to commemorate survivors and victims. The onePULSE Foundation, the non-profit which Poma founded and serves as executive director and CEO, fill fund the initiative.

“Bi, Poly, Switch—I’m Not Greedy, I Know What I Want”

June was chosen for LGBT Pride Month to commemorate the Stonewall riots which began on June 28, 1969. The New York Police Department staged a raid on The Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village. At 1:30 AM, contrary to most raids, which took place during the day. The riots lasted six days and involved thousands. On June 26, the Stonewall Inn, which had been included on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999, became a National Historic Landmark on June 24, 2016.

Brenda Howard

The first pride event was organized by a bisexual woman named Brenda Howard, know as “the Mother of Pride.” She coordinated events after Stonewall to make sure that the events were not forgotten. Pride began as a week-long series of events. Howard and her allies’ efforts led to events such as New York and Atlanta’s Gay Liberation Day, and San Francisco and Los Angeles’s Gay Freedom Day. New York’s Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade eventually became Gay Pride. She also helped founded the New York Area Bisexual Network.

Before becoming an LGBTQ rights activist, Howard was involved in the anti-war and feminism movements. Howard’s activism continued into the 80s and 90, as she demonstrated for national health care, racial equality and for those living with HIV and AIDS. At a time when the gay rights movement was focused on gay men and women, Howard successfully lobbied for the 1993 March on Washington to include bisexuals. Howard died on June 28, 2005, the 36th anniversary of Stonewall.

Several months later, the Queens Chapter of the Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) created the Brenda Howard Memorial Award, the “first award by a major American LGBTQ organization to be named after an openly bisexual person.” The annual award “recognizes an individual or organization whose work on behalf of the bisexual community and the greater LGBT community best exemplifies the vision, principles, and community service exemplified by Brenda Howard.”

Nearly fifty years after the Stonewall riots, on June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court decided in Obergefell v. Hodges that, “The Fourteenth Amendment requires a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state.”


June is also important in LGBTQ history for several other reasons. Alan Turing, the subject of the 2014 film The Imitation Game committed suicide on June 8, 1954. In 1936, Turing published a paper which was later recognized as “the foundation of computer science” which “analysed what it meant for a human to follow a definite method or procedure to perform a task.” His idea was to invent a “Universal Machine” that could decode and perform any set of instructions.

His best known work, however was a paper he published in 1950, which included the idea for an ‘imitation game’ now called the Turing Test, which compared human and machine outputs. It became an important contribution to the field of Artificial Intelligence.

He did not live to see how his contributions affected the field. In 1952, Turing was convicted until Britain’s anti-homosexuality laws, which were overturned in 1967. He was prosecuted for having an affair with a young man and, chose to undergo chemical castration instead of going to prison. The following year, Turing committed suicide by ingesting cyanide. Turing was granted a posthumous royal pardon in December 2013.

On June 5, 1981, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) published the first official document on the disease that later became known as AIDS. The Morbidity and Morality Weekly Report described five cases of Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, a type of pneumonia typically caused by a suppressed immune system. All five victims were gay young men living in Los Angeles, two of whom died by the time the report was published.

A month after the report was published Dr. Paul Volberding at the University of California San Francisco saw his first case of AIDS on his first day at the San Francisco General Hospital. By the end of 1981, nine people in San Francisco had died from the disease, and by 1984, more than 800 cases were reported. In January 1983, Dr. Volberding established the first HIV outpatient clinic in the United States at San Francisco General Hospital.

On June 9, 2014, actress Laverne Cox was the first transgender person featured on the cover of Time for their “The Transgender Tipping Point” story. She became the first openly transgender person nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for her role as Sophia Burset in the show Orange Is the New Black. The show is based on the eponymous book, Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman, a bisexual Smith College graduate.

Two years later, on June 10, 2016, an Oregon circuit court ruled that Jamie Shupe could legally change their gender to non-binary. Legal experts believe this to be the first ruling of its kind in the country, though some states and cities have removed gender from ID cards.

Twenty days later, on June 30, 2016, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced that the U.S. was lifting the ban on transgender people serving in the military. “Starting today, otherwise qualified service members can no longer be in voluntarily separated discharged or denied reenlistment or continuation of service just for being transgender.” This came five years after the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy which allowed LGBT people to serve in the military but banned them from revealing their sexual identity, was repealed. 

President Clinton was the first to honor Pride Month on June  11, 1999, when he declared that June “Gay & Lesbian Pride Month.” On May 31, 2016, President Obama declared June “LGBT Pride Month.”

“I will let the world see sir what justice there is when it is govern by the Race prejudice men!!!”

The class on the Silk Road that I took during my first year at Smith College was my first non-Euro or American-centric history course. My final paper was on the history of Jewish settlement in Kaifeng China during the Song dynasty (960-1279).

In my junior year, following my Narratives of Interment course the previous year, I took an Asian American Literature course that broadened the scope of literature from World War II era Japanese-American literature to Asian-American literature that spanned over two centuries. We read everything from Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior, Sui Sin Far’s (pen name of Edith Maude Eaton, who was half-Chinese, half-English) short stories, Le Thi Diem Thuy’s The Gangster We Are All Looking For, and Carlos Bulosan’s America is in the Heart. This class was only the second time that I was immersed in non-white authors. Even my Japanese history classes included books such as Memoirs of a Geisha and Liza Dalby’s Geisha were by white authors. This class was the reason I won a trivia contest naming Asian-American writers while I was a student at UMass Amherst several years later. The hosts had to look up several names on my list. During that class, my professor explained that Chinese had pretended to be Mexican to get into the United States. I didn’t learn details until graduate school.

While getting my Masters, I studied U.S. imperialism, foreign relations and race relations, including US-China relations, though with more of a focus on Chinese immigration and anti-Chinese sentiment. The negative portrayals of Asians goes back to Samuel Gorge Morton’s pioneer work on cranial measurements became crucial to biological determinism. In 1839, Morton wrote that the Chinese “have been compared to the monkey race whose attention is perpetually changing from one object to another.” Morton was not the only one to use such descriptions. Missionaries, diplomats and traders described the Chinese as “deprived and vicious,” and “on a level with the rudest tribes of mankind.” They were “pagan savages,” “idolatrous savages,” and “almond-eyed heathens”; a nation of “children or idiots” who lived in “imbecile world”; “a poor, miserable, dwarfish race of inferior beings.”

Diplomatic relations between the US and China began in 1846, when Commodore James Biddle negotiated a “treaty of amity and commerce” with China, shortly before attempting to do the same with Japan. The amity between the two countries would be short-lived. A century after Captain Cook and his crew became the first Europeans to have contact with native Hawaiians, missionaries who had flocked to the island were looking for a way to profit off the land. They decided to cultivate sugar, which the native population had been growing. Amos Starr Cooke and Samuel Castle, former missionaries created Castle & Cooke which would grow to become one of the world’s largest sugar producers. However, to protect American growers, the US government  levied tariffs on imported sugar. Hawaiian planters urged the government to make Hawaii part of the United States so that they would not lose money. The government refused to do so and also did not agree to the planters’ next proposition of a free-trade agreement. The Hawaiian planters eventually came up with a solution: grant the United States exclusive rights to create commercial and military bases in Hawaii. President Grant approved the treaty in 1876, turning Hawaii into an American protectorate. Native Hawaiians protested the treaty, but the United States military put down the protest.

The sugar industry quickly exploded, from 21 million pounds in 1876 to 225 million pounds in 1890. However, as neither the white nor native Hawaiian population wanted to work in the fields, the plantation owners had to look elsewhere. Eventually they began importing Japanese and Chinese laborers who came by the thousands after a reciprocity treaty was signed. The 1890 census, recorded 40,612 native Hawaiians, 27,391 Chinese and Japanese laborers and 6,220 Americans, Britons, Germans, French, Norwegians, and Hawaiian-born whites.

Things were completely different on the mainland. By the mid-nineteenth century, anti-Asian sentiment, mainly directed at the Chinese, was rising, especially in California, which by the end of the 1860s was “violently anti-Chinese”. Anti-Japanese sentiment had was not very high, as one newspaper editorial declaring that, “‘the objections raised against the Chinese…cannot be alleged against the Japanese…They have brought their wives, children and…new industries among us.’”


Eventually, anti-Chinese sentiment led to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. To circumvent the law, Chinese began entering through Canada or pretending to be Mexican or Native, or claimed birthright citizenship after 1898. The American government imposed many other restrictions on incoming Chinese, even those who were returning American citizens, often detaining them for weeks upon arrival, including young children. Not only that, but Chinese immigrants were subjected to lengthy questioning by three sets of officials which would be prolonged if the answers did not match. No other national group was treated so harshly by immigration authorities, and some Chinese referred to U.S. immigration officials as “gestapo.” In 1879, in the midst of a fear of Yellow Peril, the new state constitution of California denied suffrage to “all natives of China, idiots, and insane persons.” Three years later, all further Chinese immigration to the US was prohibited. These restrictions would last well into the twentieth century.


Anti-Chinese laws extended even to children as they grew to school age. In 1858, as calls for segregated began in San Francisco. The following year, thirty Chinese parents petition the Board of Education to open a primary school. Rev. William Speer offered the basement of the Chinese Presbyterian Mission House, which became the Chinese School. The school closed four months later for lack of funds, and over the next decade would re-open several times, due to lack of funds and poor attendance, but ultimately failed. 

In 1860, the California Legislature passed a law that “Negroes, Mongolians and Indians shall not be allowed into public schools.” Any school that allowed non-white students to attend would be penalized, but there was no requirement to provide public schools for non-white children. The attitude toward the Chinese, on one hand was that they were unassimilable, but on the other hand, educating Chinese children would allow them to assimilate and become permanent residents. In 1870, the law changed once more, to only segregate schools for Native American and black children. As a result, the following year, the San Francisco school board ended its support for the Chinese School, after the superintendent James Denman cited the law as a reason that the Chinese School was no longer needed. However, the law made no mention of Chinese students who were not allowed to attend public schools.

In the 1880s, California passed a law that entitled all children to a public education, but the San Francisco School Board prevented Chinese children from attending until Mamie Tape’s family went to court. Their attorney, William Gibson argued that Mamie’s exclusion violated the 1880 California school law and equal protection under the 14th Amendment. Judge Maguire agreed, as did the California Supreme Court when the school board appealed. 

But their victory was short-lived. Superintendent Mouldertook advantage of the fact that the ruling did not undermine the “separate but equal” ruling of Plessy v. Ferguson, and therefore, Chinese students could still be prevented from attending all-white schools. The Chinese Primary School opened in April, 1885. Despite the law, most Chinese-American students were attending integrated public schools in San Francisco by 1920, the law was not repealed until 1947.

After World War I, China was part of the Paris Peace Conference. During the meeting, the Japan proposed three additions to the League’s draft Covenant, known as the Racial Equality Bill. The proposals “concerned racial equality, the nature of territorial mandates, and international labor regulations.” Many Japanese immigrants, including 49,000 in southern California appealed to the delegation that “‘the abolition of discrimination based on racial differences is vital to the establishment of permanent world peace,” and they pleaded for the delegation to “take appropriate action upon this matter.’ ” Predictably, the Japanese delegation met with significant resistance, especially from Great Britain and the United States, which saw the proposal as “an unspoken demand for increased Japanese immigration…[which would] immediately motivate other Asian nations to demand that their immigration restrictions likewise be eased… [leading to] grave domestic political problems”. When the sixteen votes were tallied, eleven were in favor, including France and Italy with two, and Greece and China with one vote each. However, Wilson, Chair of the Commission, rejected the proposal because it had not had unanimous support, despite the fact that unanimity had not applied to any other decision made during the conference, including Wilson’s proposal to protect the Monroe Doctrine which had been passed by a majority vote shortly before. 

Although Wilson had voted against the Racial Equality Bill, it was the US government that brought up the issue of its anti-Chinese laws and regulations, shortly after Pearl Harbor. The debate lasted for over a year, emphasizing the prevalence of anti-Asian sentiment which pervaded American society, including its laws. While Congress praised China for its resistance against the Japanese, the Chinese government and its citizens had been conspicuously discriminated against by the American government. Unequal treaties from over a century before prevented Americans and British nationals from being tried in Chinese courts for crimes committed on Chinese soil and Chinese immigration had been severely restricted since 1882. And, while the American and British governments repealed the unequal treaties in 1942, it was a symbolic gesture and it was not until the end of 1943 that the immigration issue was resolved.

“I wanted to write stories about human beings, not the stereotypical Asian”

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month was originally a week long, when President Jimmy Carter signed the proclamation in 1978. The week beginning on May 4 was chosen so that it would include May 7 and May 10. The first date was when Nakahama Manjiro1 (John Mung) arriving in New Bedford harbor in Massachusetts in 1843, aboard the John Howland as the first documented Japanese immigrant to the United States. He eventually returned to Japan and was instrumental in the negotiations between Commodore Perry and the Japanese government. Manjiro’s story is still relatively unknown but there is now a ballet. The second date marks when the transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869. Most of those who worked on it were Chinese immigrants. In 1990, the week-long celebration turned into a month.

I learned more about Japanese-American history in two semesters of college and two years of graduate school than I had all through high school, though mostly through my own reading and research. As a child, I read Yoshiko Uchida’s Journey to Topaz and Journey Home without realising that these fictional stories were based on true events until I read her autobiography Invisible Thread some time later. Invisible Thread would be my first exposure to my alma mater, Smith College, which Uchida attended for her Masters program while her parents were incarcerated at Topaz, in Utah.

During my sophomore year of college, I took a course called “Narratives of Interment” where we studied poetry, autobiographies, novels and other literature written by Japanese-Americans about their and their families experiences in the concentration camps in the United States during World War II. While most writings were autobiographical, some, such as John Okada’s No-No Boy, were fictional, but based on historical events. I chose my final paper topic on multi-racial Japanese-American families after reading Jeanne Wakatsuki-Houston’s Farewell to Manzanar about her family’s experiences at the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California. One of the couples there, was a Japanese man and his black wife. I had thought interracial marriage was illegal and decided to do some research. I found that, it was only illegal in some states and that many couples circumvented the law by marrying in other states. I found that the government was meticulous in finding anyone who was Japanese, including those with 1/16th (one great-grandparent) Japanese ancestry. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, my research was only superficial and it would be several years before I returned to the topic.

It was also while discussing Farewell to Manzanar that one of my classmates asked if we could visit the site. Our professor promised to look into it. We left class, doubtful that such a thing would happen, only to find out that the American Studies department had funds left over and was going to pay our way. As it was nearing the end of the semester, only about half of my classmates could attend. We arrived in LA at 8 PM PST, 11 PM EST and woke up at 5 AM the next day. But it was all worth it when we realised that we had inadvertently come on the date of the annual pilgrimage and would be riding the bus with former inmates, who shared their stories with us on the long ride.




That year’s ceremony was dedicated to Sue Kunitomi Embrey, who had worked to make Manzanar a National Historic Site and had died the previous year. It was a sobering experience for me, as a bi-racial Japanese-American, knowing that had I been born sixty years earlier on the east coast, I would have been incarcerated here as well. But unlike most, my family would have been allowed to leave camp and return to the east coast. Despite the solemnity, it felt like a family reunion, with everyone catching up on the news. I was amazed at how eager everyone was to talk to us after they learned who we were and why we were here. It was an extraordinary, moving experience. I had hoped to return, this year, after hearing about the restoration and to see how it had changed since I had been there. But I was unable to attend and hope to do so next year, for the 50th anniversary of the pilgrimage.

In my senior seminar, I used the Sophia Smith archives to write a paper about Japanese and Japanese-American Smith College students. During my research, I discovered that Ninomiya Tei who attended Smith from 1906 to 1910, was not the first Asian-American student to have attended Smith. That distinction went to Inokuchi Akuri, who attended Smith’s graduate school for a year to study physiology and sports science, before transferring to the Boston Normal School of Gymnastics. Inokuchi eventually returned to Japan to teach at her alma mater, the Tokyo Women’s Higher Normal School and later taught dance and physical education to Emperor Meiji and his family. My research paper ended World War II, during which time, six Japanese and Japanese-American students attended Smith College as undergraduate and graduate students, several of whom had families in the camps.

It was not until graduate school that I embarked on a broader study of Asian-American history. In addition to my courses on American imperialism and U.S.-Japan relations, I read widely about modern Asian-American and Japanese-American history, from Chinese-American immigration to diplomatic and cultural relations between the United States and Japan. I also learned about Nakahama Manjiro and Commodore James Biddle, who arrived in Japan in June, 1846, in the last years of Japan’s two hundred year seclusion. Biddle wanted to negotiate a treaty with Japan, but was refused. It would not be until 1854, a year after Commodore Perry first arrived that the U.S. and Japan would negotiated their first treaty. Commodore Biddle was a distant relation to Francis Biddle, U.S. Attorney General during World War II, who initially opposed but later authorized the Japanese-American incarceration. He would also serve as a judge during the postwar Nuremberg trials.

It was during my U.S.-Japan relations course that I returned to studying multi-racial Japanese-Americans. I wrote my final paper on Japanese women who married black GIs during the American Occupation (1945-1952), which has only recently begun to be studied. I was surprised by the amount of racism that the couples faced from all sides, Japanese, blacks, whites, and Japanese-Americans.

That same semester, I took Writing History and History Communication, in which I continued my study of interracial Japanese and American couples, but also expanded it to include all interracial relationships. In History Communication, we explored various means of bringing history to the public, from podcasts to infographics and other visual and audio. I used graphics to show the history of anti-miscegenation laws, based on Peggy Pascoe’s What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America to non-academic audiences. I expanded on Pascoe’s conclusion about a “color-blind” society in the wake of Loving v. Virginia, which overturned bans on interracial marriage, citing everything from movies to current events in the on-going preoccupation with and negative attitudes toward interracial couples.

In Writing History, we learned how to craft a narrative, write character studies and set a scene. Initially, I wanted to write a book proposal about multi-racial Japanese-Americans who had been incarcerated in the Manzanar Children’s Village orphanage and the Manzanar concentration camp during World War II, but found the source material lacking. The history of the Children’s Village turned out to be far more complicated than I had initially thought, and in the end, I wrote a book proposal about the Manzanar Children’s Village. My trip to Manzanar ten years earlier helped both frame my narrative and imagine, however superficially, the hardships that Japanese-Americans had faced during that time. I also using camp newspapers, interviews and documentaries to augment my research, ending, as I had with my History Communication project, on the current state of research about the Children’s Village, which, while still mostly a taboo subject among many former inhabitants, several are working to spread their story.

1I have rendered the names of Japanese individuals using the surname first.