Executive Order 8802 - Birth of the Civil Rights Movement

   In 1940, two decades before the 1963 March on Washington where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I have a Dream” speech, the seeds of the civil rights movement were planted by Asa Philip Randolph when he induced President Franklin D. Roosevelt to sign Executive Order 8802 on June 25, 1941which “encouraged the full participation in the national defense program by all citizens of the United States, regardless of race, creed, color or national origin, in the firm belief that the democratic way of life within the Nation can be defended successfully only with the help and support of all groups within its borders.”

   This seminal but almost forgotten leader is considered by some as the true father of the civil rights movement in the United States.  Today his deeds are not known by many, his name outside the labor movement, does not elicit recognition.  And yet, millions of colored people, minorities and even women owe a great debt to this man.

   But the road to Executive Order 8802 was long in the making.  In January 1917, William White, President of the Headwaiters and Side Waiters Society of Greater New York asked A. Philip Randolph to edit the monthly magazine “Hotel Messenger”.  Later, the “Hotel” was dropped and in November 1917, the first issue of The Messenger was published.   The following quotation from the August 1919 issue gives an inkling of the future civil rights movement.

“First, as workers, black and white, we all have one common interest, the getting of more wages, shorter hours, and better working conditions.

Black and white workers should combine for no other reason than that for which individual workers should combine, to increase their bargaining power, which will enable them to get their demands.”

   In June 1925, the Pullman porters, an all-black service staff of the Pullman Sleeping Cars asked Randolph to lead their new organization, Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP).  For ten years, Randolph organized the Pullman porters and the BSCP became the exclusive bargaining agent of the Pullman porters.  In 1935, the BSCP was granted its charter by the American Federation of Labor (AFL). 

   The war in Europe starting in 1939 created a boom in the defense industry but Government-instituted training programs still excluded blacks.  More than 250,000 new defense jobs were closed to blacks.  In the aircraft industry, only 240 of 107,000 workers were blacks.  The same situation was experienced in other industries like construction.  In the armed forces, even after the passage of the Selective Training and Service Act in 1940 which was the first peace time draft of men between 21 and 35, the blacks and other minorities like the Filipinos still could not secure their right to fight. 

   On September 1940 during a Porters’ meeting in New York City where Randolph spoke about these two problems, there was a distinguished guest who opened doors for him at the highest level - First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.  Upon meeting with Randolph and other black leaders, she realized that the President’s secretaries had not responded to numerous requests from Randolph for a meeting with the President.  Eleanor Roosevelt then addressed the convention and pledged her strong support to “make America a place where everyone, Negro and white, could live in equality and opportunity.”

   On September 27, 1940, Randolph with Walter White, head of the NAACP and T. Arnold Hill, an administrator for the Urban League met with President Roosevelt.  They spoke of the many injustices in the hiring practices particularly in the defense industry and the discriminatory practices in the army.  The President tried to assuage their complaints by telling them that progress was being made by putting blacks into combat services proportionately.  But Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, who was present at the meeting, stated that this was almost impossible particularly in the Navy where men live aboard ships.  But the President promised them that he will consult with the cabinet and military leadership about these problems.  Randolph and the other leaders were greatly encouraged by the meeting.

   Unfortunately, the cabinet and the military leadership including Army Chief of Staff George Marshall were against these changes.  Marshall stated that “there is no time for critical experiments which could have a highly destructive effect on morale.”

   Randolph and the rest did not hear from the President regarding his meeting with the cabinet.  They learned of the War Department’s position through a press briefing stating that it would not intermingle colored and white enlisted personnel in the same regiments.  It further stated that all parties agreed to the report.  Randolph and White asked for another meeting with the President but the meeting was not made nor did the Press Secretary Stephen Early clarify the statement in the press briefing.  En route to a Pullman conference in several major cities, Randolph and Milton Webster, a Pullman porter planned a strategy to get 10,000 Negroes to march down Pennsylvania Avenue.  This was the birth of the March on Washington movement, a non-violent civil disobedience campaign that was proposed in speeches to the Pullman porters.  By late 1940, Randolph set up the National March on Washington Committee with branches in eighteen cities.  The proposed march set on July 1, 1941 was publicized in Black newspapers, through the NAACP, the Urban League and by the porters.  It called for jobs in national defense and equal integration in the fighting forces of the United States.

   By January 1941, President Roosevelt was alerted of the Washington March plan and refused to have another meeting with Randolph in the spring.   Randolph sent letters to the president and to government officials to ask them to make speeches at the Lincoln Memorial where the marchers intended to gather. 

   With the growing momentum for the march, Randolph revised his estimate of the marchers to 100,000, leaving President Roosevelt in a quandary.   Aside from the possible repercussions of the march, the president was clearly worried about the Southerners in Congress who already opposed him in many issues.  Randolph became the target of many including Congressman Arthur Miller of Nebraska who called him “the most dangerous Negro in America.”

   Roosevelt asked Eleanor to write to Randolph urging him not to follow through with the march, citing that people may get hurt in the process.  But this did not deter Randolph from proceeding with the march.   Eleanor asked Randolph on the logistics of the marchers, to which he replied that they would stay in Washington hotels and eat in the city’s restaurants, a situation that would have created riots.  Privately, he asked the March in Washington Committee to request the support of black churches and schools in the capital.  Eleanor later met with Randolph in New York and subsequently advised the president to meet with Randolph at the White House to prevent the march.  The meeting with the President, Randolph and White took place on June 18, 1941.  Roosevelt remained firm about the status of the armed forces being segregated.  But he promised to set up a committee to investigate cases of discrimination.  Randolph was adamant about his demand for an executive order desegregating the defense industry and the president insisted that nothing can be done until the march is called off.  Randolph did not budge.  The President asked Randolph how many people he planned to bring and his reply was one hundred thousand.  When asked the same question, White replied the same answer without a blink.  The President folded his cards when he finally agreed that a committee would draft an executive order.  But Randolph did not stop at that.  He helped draft the document with officials of the Cabinet and edited subsequent versions to his satisfaction. 

   On June 25, 1941, Executive Order 8802 was signed.  Under the order, the Fair Employment Practices Committee (FPEC) was set up to investigate discrimination in the work place.  Although FPEC proved inadequate to the task, the Executive order paved the way for thousands of blacks and other minorities including women to become employed in the defense industry.  1.2 million Southern blacks moved to Western and Northern cities for industrial defense jobs.  More than 46,000 blacks moved to the Bay area between 1941 and 1945.  Kaiser Shipyards which owned four in Richmond employed 90,000 people, a third of whom were women. 

   However, prejudice did not end with the executive order.  The movement of black workers to industrial cities resulted in race riots with the worst in 1943 in Detroit where more than thirty people, twenty-five of whom were black, died in two days.  

   Although Executive Order 8802 did not lead to the integration of the armed forces, it led the way to the formation of the 99th Pursuit Squadron, the first black flying squadron (part of the Tuskegee Airmen) in September 1941.  In April 1942, the 382nd Platoon of the U.S. Marines or the Navajo code talkers and the First Filipino Battalion were activated (later became the First Filipino Regiment in July 1942).  More troops of color followed.

   In 1947, Randolph reignited his demand for integration of the armed forces by founding the League for Non-violent Civil Disobedience against Military Segregation.  With the impending Cold war and in recognition of the contributions of the African American men and women during WWII, President Truman ordered the end of military discrimination by signing Executive Order 9981 on July 26, 1948, ending 170 years of military segregation.

   Randolph became the Chair of the 1963 March on Washington and Martin Luther King heeded his advice of non-violence and the rest is history.  Randolph was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Johnson in 1964. 

   Seventy years after the signing of Executive Order 8802 we have a black president in the White House.  I am sure that Asa Philip Randolph is smiling wherever he is.  His dream is finally a reality. 

                                                                      Cecilia I. Gaerlan
                                                                     Executive Director                                                                     Bataan Legacy Historical Society


          1. Executive Orders – Primary Documents:  The President and African Americans                                         A Lesson Plan from the Education Department of the National WWII Museum.

         2. FDR, A. Philip Randolph and the Desegregation of the Defense Industries.  The White House                          Historical Association.

         3. Immigration Indigestion – A. Philip Randolph, Radical & Restrictionist by Daryl Scott, June 1999.

         4. Our Reason for Being by A. Philip Randolph.  The Messenger, Aug. 1919, pp11-12.

         5. Asa Philip Randolph Biography from AFLCIO..ORG

         6. More than Race Relations: A. Philip Randolph & the African American Research for Empowerment                by Paula Pfeffer.  Reviews in American History June 1991.

         7. Randolph, Asa Philip – American National Biography Online

The Philippine Indepenence Act

(Tydings-MeDuffie Act)

   Also known as the Tydings-McDuffie Act (24 March 1934), the Philippine Independence Act 1 was signed into law by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR). Its authors were Senator Millard Evelyn Tydings of Maryland and Representative John McDuffie of Alabama. Both were Democrats in the 73d United States Congress.2

   The Act which offered Philippine independence from the United States after a period of ten years ultimately created the path for self-government of the Philippines. On 1 May 1934, the Philippine Senate approved the Tydings-McDuffie Act. Under the provisions of the act, the Constitution of the Philippines was drafted and became law upon approval by FDR on 23 March 1935, thereupon establishing the Commonwealth of the Philippines.3

   Besides the road to independence, there were other provisions in place, pending the final and complete withdrawal of the sovereignty of the United States over the Philippine Islands.

   Sec.2. (a) (12): The Philippine recognizes … upon order of the President, to call into the service of such armed forces all military forces organized by the Philippine government. Another provision, Sec.10. (a) & (b), allowed the United States President to discuss matters in regards to letting U.S. naval reservations and fueling stations placed in the Philippines after two years of independence.

   Sec.8. (a) (1) & (2): For the purposes of the Immigration Act of 1917, the Immigration Act of 1924  (except section 13 (c) ), … citizens of the Philippine Islands who are not citizens of the United States shall be considered as if they were aliens….shall have a quota of fifty. An exception was provided to meet the needs of the industry of the Territory of Hawaii. Of note, the allocation of fifty is half the minimum quota that the 1924 Immigration Act established for all other non-Asian nationalities.4


   Various factions confronted the United States Congress with regards to the Philippines (e.g., labor unions, business, the marketplace, as well as economic and military benefits, and anti-immigrant and racists sentiments). Underlying the above was the traditional American value of self-determination as fundamental to policy. It was recognized in the Schurman Commission established 3 January 1899. Citing Thomas Jefferson’s precedent in the Louisiana Purchase on unorganized territories, the end goal is “complete self-government.”5

   President Theodore Roosevelt echoed the sentiment to Congress in 1901, envisioning “self-government after the fashion of really free nations.” In 1902, the Philippine Organic Act prohibited any sizeable U.S. investment in agriculture, banking, or money. And in 1916, Congress went further and passed the Philippine Autonomy Act, which established a legislature, extended the vote to all literate adult males, and announced plans to grant independence as soon as possible.6

   In conflict with ideal American values were the racial discriminatory practices encountered by Philippine immigrants and other ethnic groups. Following the 1875, 1882, Chinese exclusion laws of 1902 and 1904, voluntary restrictions on Japanese immigration of the Gentleman’s Agreement of 1907-1908, the 1917 and the Immigration Act of 1924 (the National Origins Act), virtually all immigrations, save from the Philippines, from the region of Asia were denied.7

  Decades of racist sentiments manifested itself in social control of space through restricted immigration laws. In the words of Senator Tydings McDuffie, “It is absolutely illogical to have an immigration policy to exclude Japanese and Chinese and permit Filipinos en masse to come into the country … they will come in conflict with white labor … and increase the opportunity for more racial prejudice and bad feelings of all kinds.” It did not matter that it was the United States, following Spain that colonized the Philippines; it did not matter that it was American companies that initially recruited and employed Philippine workers.8

   In coalition with the anti-immigration forces but for a different reason, the nationalists of the Philippines had sent from 1919 to 1933 twelve Independence Missions to the United States campaigning for recognition of Philippine Independence. To that objective, the Hare-Hawes-Cutting Act of 1933 (HHC) was passed over the veto of President Herbert Clark Hoover. Brought home by the Os-Roxas Mission (Senate President pro tempore Sergio Osmeña, Jr. and House Speaker Manuel Acuña. Roxas), it was rejected by the Philippine Legislature in October 1933. The Act permitted the United States to retain too much political and military power, and restrictions placed on Filipino agricultural products and immigrant labor.9

   In November, 1933, Manuel Luis Quezon y Molina, President of the Philippine Senate, successfully led the twelfth mission to Washington, D.C., securing in the process a better independence act than the HHC. The timing was historically on point. In the milieu of the Great Depression, the anti-immigrants sentiments forged in a coalition of ethnic, cultural, and economic protectionists and by Philippine Nationalists, the Philippine Independence Act became a reality.10

   In many respect debate over the “Philippine problem” had been as divided over granting independence to the Philippines as it had been in debating whether to colonize the islands three decades earlier. One solution to the exclusion of Philippine immigrants lay in the passing of Philippine independence. This concern readily dovetailed with the pressure of U.S. industry and labor unions. To give it credibility, the decision by the policy-makers provided ostensibly a sense of reasoned scientific authority, in a geopolitically informed eugenic discourse.11

   The Tydings-McDuffie Act was a “significant attempt to uniformly ban Asian immigration and redefine America’s notion of ‘Asia.”12 In its development and rationale, the provisions reflect the design to balance labor considerations, nation-building, white supremacy, racial ideology, the pragmatic economic and military benefits derived from the Philippines,13 as well as  ideals of American democracy.

 In the final analysis, an unlikely coalition of exclusionists, anti-colonialists, and Filipino nationalists managed to band together to promote the passage of the Act.14 Thus, on 8 July 1946, President Harry S. Truman signed Proclamation 2695 on the Independence of the Philippines.15

                                                                                                 ---Ian Crueldad and Kaibigan


(1) Philippine Independence Act (24 March 1934), Pub. L. 73-127, Sess. 2, ch. 84, 48 Stat. 456.

(2) Larry A. Grant, “Tydings-McDuffie Act of 1934,” edited by Kathleen R. Arnold, Anti-Immigration on the United States: Historical Encyclopedia, rpt. (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, LLC, 2011), 473-4.

(3) Grant, Ibid.; G. L. Lamborn, Arms of Little Value: The Challenge of Insurgency and Global Instability in the Twenty-First Century (Havertown, PA: Casmate Pubs., 2012), 154.

(4) The immigration quota for the Philippines was less than that for Monaco, a country whose total populations was only 2,030. Sid Amores Valledor, The Original Writings of Philip Vera Cruz, foreword by Joaquin L. Gonzalez III, Ph. D. and afterword by E. San Juan, Jr., Ph. D. ( Indianapolis: Dog Ear Pub., 2006), 37-8.

(5) Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman, American Umpire (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 2013), 175.

(6) Ibid.

(7) James Tyner, Oriental Bodies: Discourse and Discipline in U.S. Immigration Policy, 1875 – 1942, annotated edition (Lanham, MD: Lexington Bks., 2006), 84; Grant, Ibid.

(8) Tyner, Ibid.

(9) Hare-Hawes-Cutting Act (17 January 1933), Pub. L. 72-311, 47 Stat. 761; Maria Christine N. Halili, Philippine History, rpt. (Manila: Rex Bookstore, Inc., 2004), 186-7; Grant, Ibid.

(10) Halili, Ibid.; Grant, Ibid; Tyner, Ibid.

(11) Tyner, Ibid., 77, 83.

(12) Tyner, Ibid., 85.

(13) Ibid., 83

(14) Bill Ong Hing, Making and Remaking Asian America Through Immigration Policy: 1850 – 1990 (Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 1994), 35

(15) A.P. Sames Blaustein, Jay Adrian Sigler and Benjamin R. Beede, Independence documents of the world, v. 2 (Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.: Oceana Pub., 1977), 571.

Images (from left to right);

     * Library of Congress: Herbert Clark Hoover and Franklin Delano Roosevelt

     * Library of Congress: Millard Evelyn Tydings

     * Library of Congress: John McDuffie

     * Library of Congress: Manuel Luis Quezon y Molina

     * Library of Congress: Harry S. Truman

The Greatest Legacy*

   As we approach September 8, 2015, we celebrate a great moment in history.

   Manongs Larry Itliong, Bob Armington, Pete Velasco, Ben Gines, and Philip Vera Cruz were seasoned labor organizers who led 1500 farmworkers off the fields of Delano, California. They were poised and well organized.

   Their struggle for justice in the fields of California began many years before that historic date. When their generation came to the United States in the1920’s as young men, many heard of “streets paved with gold.” Quickly, as day follows night, their evening dreams in the stark reality of the blazing sunlight left them without respite in the agricultural fields as exploited cheap labor.

   Founding fraternal orders in the tradition of the masonic lodges of their parents in the Philippines in the 1890s were the Gran Oriente Filipino, Caballeros Dimas Alang, and the Legionarios De Trabajos. These social systems were environments of home away from home, of meeting places to celebrate, and of mutual aid and self-help. As with the numerous fraternal orders and secret lodges in the United States they were also centers of liberal and progressive principles—their common roots being the free masons of Europe and their ideals of equality, religious tolerance, fraternity, and liberty.

   The fraternal orders, community organizations, labor associations and unions founded by our pioneers provided the needed support in their struggle for a better life. In their brotherhood they stood and protected each other in their fight for better pay and working conditions. This is how they survived America’s ugliness. Shunted into the bowels of towns and cities, they claimed the streets of Kearney, Temple, and El Dorado. In the slum-infested neighborhoods they built their communities in Watsonville, Stockton, El Centro, Delano, Santa Maria, San Jose, Salinas, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. 

   Working as farmworkers, domestic servants and seamen, overcoming all odds, their sweat and bent backs paved the way for the brothers, sisters, and families that followed. Visionary thinkers for a better life in America, their self-respect and the steadfastness of their self-determination opened the door for a brighter future for their children and succeeding generations. We owe much gratitude to our first generation.

   Remembering Carlos Bulason, Stanley Garibay, Severino Ruste, Joaquin Legaspi …. America is in their heart. We honor their illustrious legacy.

   Through the generations advancing their Legacy Forward … Al Robles, Royale Morales, Fred Cordova, Dorothy Cordova, Marge Talaugon, Joe Talaugon, Sid Valledor, etc., andthe generations oftoday and tomorrow , they will always be remembered and serve as a source of inspiration.

                                                                                    --- Steven A. Arevalo

                                                                                         20 August 2015



*Images (left to right)


.        Walter P. Reuther Library:       Larry Dulay Itliong

          Wayne State University


.        Walter P. Reuther Library:       Benjamin C. Gines

         Wayne State University


.        Walter P. Reuther Library:        Philip Villamin Vera Cruz

         Wayne State University


.        The Original Writings of                   Peter Gines Velasco

         Philip Vera Cruz


.        FANHS Central Coast              Joe Pina Talaugon &

         Chapter                                  Margie Cabatuan Talaugon

Our Farm Workers Labor Organizing Legacy*

  Today, we celebrate the proclamation of independence of June 12, 1898 as the “Day of Freedom.” It represents the courageous spirit and moral intellect of leadership that brings forth a united social force.

  To Dr. José Rizal, his quest for equality in time transformed to an advocacy for nationhood as a justification to restore the dignity of his people. On 10 October 1889, at the Paris Exposition Universelle, in the letter, “To Our Dear Mother Country Spain,” Rizal and a group of illustrados declared their uniqueness as a people when they signed themselves as “The Filipinos.” More than a geographical origin it pronounced a national loyalty. To Andrés Bonifacio, the dream for independence became a possibility. The “soul of the revolution” established the revolutionary government that was democratic in its constituency. To Emilio Aguinaldo, the collage of the 42 documented rebellions which led to the Cavite Mutiny and national identity required the Filipino people to transcend oppression and formally proclaim Acta de la Proclamation de la Independencia del Pueblo Filipino.

  To the children of the generation of Rizal, Bonifacio, and Aguinaldo, the legacies of humanism, the enlightenment, and classical liberalism had been bestowed upon them. Those who went abroad invested themselves with the same zeal in the plantations of Hawaii, the canneries of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, and the agricultural fields of America. As with their parents they understood well the meaning of liberty and the dignity of each individual. Denied under Section 2(3) of the National Labor Relations Act (5 July 1935), they would strive undaunted against all odds for the legal protection to organize, engage in collective bargain, and elect representatives of their choosing.

  In the bastion of agriculture, then the fifth largest economy in the world, it would take four decades to overcome the institutional subordination barrier, culminating in the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act (5 June 1975). In no small measure the Filipino American agriculture labor movement had played a significant role. Organizing had been in a state of moribund for years when the multi-ethnic Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) of the AFL-CIO, led by its Filipino American members was victorious on 14 May 1965 in the Coachella Valley.

   The ending was quick and stunning. The action taken was heard and felt up north in the fields, towns and hamlets of the Central Valley. It was as if a bolt of hope, a harbinger of things to come, had been hurled across the sky and planted itself at the workers’ feet. The swift, dramatic, successful strike was the major source of inspiration at that point in time. It resounded throughout the farm belt, so loud and clear it raised to great heights the buoyed hope of farm workers everywhere.

   On 7 September 1965, at the Filipino Community Hall in Delano, AWOC, led by its de facto union representative leader, Larry Itliong, voted to strike, and strike they did next day. The National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) of Cesar Chavez voted to strike on September 16, followed suit on the twentieth. Together, on 22 August 1966 they joined as one into the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee (UFWOC) of the AFL-CIO. On 29 July 1970, 26 growers, representing 42% of the California table grapes signed contracts with UFWOC at Forty Acres. The first signature to appear was that of Larry Itliong, followed by Cesar Chavez, and John Guimarra, Sr. of the growers. UFWOC was succeeded on 19 February 1972, by the United Farm Workers of America (UFWA, technically on 17 October 1973), chartered by the AFL-CIO, with it the vision of agricultural workers finally became a reality.


   Philip Vera Cruz, the philosopher, in his writings and many speeches, more than anyone else among the farmworkers, articulated and related the plight and strivings of the agricultural field workers as part and parcel of the same struggle of all people to live as people should live. To Larry Itliong much is owed. At the time when all of AWOC’s dozen and a half union representatives—Caucasians, Mexican Americans, and Filipino Americans—left the union in protest of what they perceived as Chavez and his group’s takeover, only Itliong stayed. Larry Itliong, the national & international director of the UFWOC boycott and President of the state and national Filipino American Political Association was a man for all seasons. Always among the workers, the endless rounds in the fields, dealing with their everyday problems, leading the charge in battle, Itliong, the warrior, epitomizes the legacy of that generation we commemorate.

   In the scheme and drama of history, the shape of the country has been chiseled by the pioneers in whose hearts beat the undying belief and faith in the truthfulness of their dreams. As with the masters of destiny on whose historic shoulders they stand, Philip Vera Cruz and Larry Itliong, in the righteousness of their cause, their actions have inspired others and spawn new energies elsewhere. Lost in the fog of history were the bold actions of Larry Itliong that touched, inspired, and added to the self-esteem of individuals. The oration of Philip Vera Cruz that raised the hopes of the listeners and quickened the rhythm of their hearts, lifted the burden of despair from their chests, and brought joy and rejuvenation to them can no longer be heard. But, we have not forgotten. They will be heard, for we will always remember.

                                                                                    ---Sid A. Valledor

                                                                                        May 30 & 31, 2015


*Presented at the Filipino American Community of Cerritos’ Second Annual Celebration of Philippine Independence in commemoration of the 117th Anniversary of Philippine Independence: “The Fighting Legacy of Philippine Independence in America,” hosted by the Honorable & Mrs. Mark E. Pulido at the Heritage Park, Cerritos, California.



Images (from left to right)

.           Library of Congress: José Protasio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda

.           Ilustración Española y Americana (1897): Andrés Bonifacio y de Castro

.           Library of Congress: Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy

.           The Filipino American Community of Cerritos

The Alien Land Act of 1913

The ability to possess and own land is one of the fundamental ways a human being is able to climb the socioeconomic ladder and create a nurturing stable environment for the family.

Generally, in the legal system a person in possession of land or goods, even as a wrongdoer, is entitled to take action against anyone interfering with the possession unless the person interfering is able to demonstrate a superior right to do so.1

Ownership in the legal system is the state or fact of exclusive rights and control over property, which may be an object, real estate, or intellectual property. The California Alien Land Law (19 May 1913) or Webb-Haney Act summarily state all aliens not eligible for citizenship cannot own nor possess land, property, etc. Due to the wording, the Act includes white European in ownership and possession but not others of different ethnicity.2

This law follows the tradition of many others that were made to halt the immigration of the Chinese and Japanese, who were deemed a threat by the labor unions supporting the Act. Essentially, this racist policy represented the oppression felt by minorities in general that had the law against them. Using the definitions of ownership and possession stated early with the Act, one can imagine their experience.

Lack of possession rights meant aliens would not be protected from unjust actions of their landlord. Lack of ownership meant they do not have a chance in obtaining their own real estate to build a home and business.

The effects of the Alien Land Law of 1913 also go beyond financial detriment. Aliens illegible for citizenship would probably feel insecure and inferior due to their limited access to resources and opportunities. These self-perceived insecurity and inferiority can set the conditions of depression because despair as well as hopelessness detrimentally impact ones socioeconomic mobility. The ability of parents to adequately provide for the family would be at risk, placing undue strain in a marriage, lowering aspirations for a better future.

The Webb-Haney Act is an example of a policy instituted to hurt and impair certain groups for the benefit, more often than not, of dominant members of a society. It was part of a larger trend of attempted discrimination against “aliens ineligible for citizenship.” The California Alien Land Law of 1920 continued the 1913 law by filling much of the loopholes. It was further amended in 1923 to fill wording-related loopholes.3

Eight other states passed restrictive land-ownership laws from 1913 to 1925: Arizona, Washington, Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Idaho, Montana, and Oregon. As in Terrace v. Thompson (1923), these alien land laws were upheld by the United States Supreme Court as not violating the Fourteenth Amendment to the United State Constitution. Not surprisingly, during the World War II years, Arkansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, Utah, and Wyoming followed suit.4

A case in point, one of the individuals targeted was Kajiro Oyama, a Japanese immigrant. He had purchased six acres of land in Chula Vista, California in 1934. The land was deeded to his son Fred. Ordered to leave the West Coast in 1942, the family went to Utah forbidden to return home. The State of California filed a petition to declare the Oyama land as forfeited to the possession of the state, because purchase had been made with the intent to evade the Alien Land Act.5

On 31 October 1946, in People v. Oyama the State of California Supreme Court reaffirmed its alien land laws with a judgment for the State and citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling as a controlling factor.6

Circumstances, however, can change, bringing about termination or modification resulting in a policy beneficial to those once placed in a subordinate status. Such a change began via a writ of certiorari of the Oyama case. The case was taken up by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) before the United States Supreme Court, where Dean Acheson, the Secretary of Sate under President Harry S Truman, presented the case for the Oyamas.7

The grounds for reversal were predicated against three charges: (1) It deprived Fred Oyama of the equal protection of the laws and of his privileges as an American citizen; (2) It denied Kajiro Oyama equal protection of the law, and (3) It violated the due process clause by sanctioning a taking of property after an appropriate period of limitation had expired.8

The Supreme Court agreed by a vote of 8 to 1 with the ACLU’s contention that Fred Oyama ahd been deprived of federal and sae equal protection guarantees. But, because the decision alone was grounds for reversing the California Supreme Court decision the Court did not address the other two contentions.9

Though Oyama did not strike down California’s Alien Land Laws, it did prove to be an important precedent. Four years later, a step further was taken, albeit symbolically, on 17 April 1952 in the Sei Fujii v. State of California case. Qualifying that in light of the Oyama and Takahashi decisions the 1923 ruling could no longer be considered as controlling precedent. With that perspective, the California Supreme Court declared the Alien Land Laws as a violation of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.10

More importantly, on 27 June 1952, the Immigration and Nationality Act (McCarran –Walter Act) eliminated the legal category of “immigrant ineligible to citizenship” on which the Alien Land Laws had been passed.11

---Daniel Boayes Lumbang and Kaibigan                          


1. The Just Call Me Charley Blog–

2.    The Statutes of California and Amendments to the Codes Passed at the Fortieth Session of      the Legislature, 1933. Sacramento: Superintendent of State Printing, 1913; Franklin Odo, ed.,   The Columbia Documentary History of the Asian American Experience (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 2002), 160; Roger Daniels, Asian American: Chinese and Japanese in the United States since 1850 (Seattle: Univ. of Washington Press, 1988), 141-2. The bill, co-written by private attorney Francis Joseph Heney and California State Attorney General Ulysses Sigel Webb (R) at the behest of Governor Hiram Warren Johnson (R), passed the Legislature overwhelmingly—35 to 2.        

3.    Shelley Sang-Hee Lee, A New History of Asian America (New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Grp., 2014), 133.

4.    Sang-Hee Lee, Ibid.; Terrace v. Thompson 263 U.S. 197 (1923), Porterfield v. Webb 263 U.S. 225 (1923), Webb v. O’Brien 263 U.S. 313 (1923), Frick v. Webb 263 U.S. 326 (1923), Cockrill v. California 268 U.S. 258 (1925); Edwin E. Ferguson, 1947, “The California Alien Land Law and the Fourteenth Amendment,” California Law Review 35(1):61; Masao Suzuki, “Important or Impotent? Taking another Look at the 1920 California Alien Land Law,” Journal of Economic History (2004) 64(1) 125.

5.    ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, “Oyama v. California: US Supreme Court RulesCalifornia’s Alien Land Act Unconstitutional” (2 Nov. 2006) (hereinafter ACLU)

6.    People v. Oyama, 29 Cal.2d 164 (1945)

7.    ACLU, Ibid.

8.    Ibid.

9.    Fred Oyama et. al v. California 332 U.S. 633 (1948)

10.  Sei Fujii v. State of California, 38 Cal.2d 718 (1952), in the Takahashi v. Fish & Game Com., 334 U.S. 410 (1948), the California sttute which denied commercial fishing licenses to “aliens ineligible for citizenship” was invalidaed on the grounds that it violated the “equal protection clause.”

11.  Immigration and Nationality Act, a.k.a. McCarran-Walter Act, (27 June 1952), Pub. L. 82-414, ch. 477, 66 Stat. 163, 8 U.S.C. ch.

12. The bill was co-written by Senator Patrick Anthony McCarran (D-NV) and Representative Francis Eugene Walter (D-PA)

Images (from left to right):· 

     Library of Congress: Hiram Warren Johnson·

     San Diego Journal (23 Aug. 1945) : Kajira Oyajma·

     Library of Congress: Patrick Anthony McCarran· 

     Library of Congress: Francis Eugene Walter