Samoan American women at Los Angeles International Airport. L to R, Ese Ese Ah Soon, Jackie Wilson Momoli, Julie Wilson Fiatoa, Fa’aeseina Wilson. (Courtesy of LAPL)
Filipino plantation laborers arriving at the dock in Honolulu. The tags around their necks identified the plantations of their destiny. (Hawaii State Archives)
Over 300,000 Asians entered the islands between 1850 and 1920. Brought here as “cheap labor,” they filled the requisitions itemizing the needs of the plantations. To control their workers, planters utilized a divide-and-conquer strategy through a multitiered wage system, paying different wage rates to different nationalities for the same work. Japanese cane cutters, for example, were paid ninety-nine cents a day, while Filipino cane cutters received only sixty-nine cents. (“Strangers From A Different Shore”, Takaki)
New York City protest of the racist and sexist images in Miss Saigon, April 1991. The photograph of “My Sister” is of a Vietnamese National Liberation Front fighter from the Vietnam War era. Photo by Corky Lee.
Miss Saigon is a Broadway musical about the romance between an American GI and a Vietnamese bar girl in Saigon during the Vietnam War. Originally, Jonathan Pryce and Keith Burns, white actors playing Eurasian/Asian characters, wore eye prostheses and bronzing cream to make themselves look more Asian. From April 1989 to May 1990, nearly 100 shows were produced under the agreement between Equity and the League of American Theaters and Producers. 33 of the shows, with 504 roles, had no ethnic minority actors and 12 other productions had only one or two ethnic actors.
An FBI agent looks for contraband at this Palos Verdes farmer’s house, 1941.
Another Japanese local had been arrested for forgotten ammunition used for shooting rodents. Broken car headlights from an old car and an empty flashlight case were grounds for “signaling the enemy.” In FBI reports, prefectural association membership was boldfaced. Almost all Issei belonged to these hometown organizations. (Photo courtesy of LAPL-NARA)
1935 Los Angeles City College Field Hockey Team at Griffith park. Susan Ahn is in front row, 3rd from right.
The U.S. Navy initially rejected Susan Ahn Cuddy when she applied for officer training because she was Asian and anti-miscegenation laws in Virginia prevented her from marrying Frank Cuddy, an Irish American. The type who doesn’t take no for an answer, Cuddy became the Navy’s first female gunnery officer (that means she trained male pilots how to shoot 50-caliber machine guns) in 1944, went on to work for the National Security Agency where she had 300 intelligence specialists under her command, and did marry her Irishman with whom she had two children.
Members of the Maria Clara club, Filipino women’s organization in Hawaii, will assist in selling war bonds during the Filipino Flag Day broadcast ceremony on Sunday, May 31, 1942.
Young couple in Chicago Winter, 1920s.
No Chinese are known to have been in Chicago until the first trans-continental railyway was completed in 1869. By 1874 there were already 18 laundries and one tea shop in the central part of the Chicago, all managed by Chinese. They came from the Pacific coast for a more tolerant society after anti-Chinese violence broke out in San Francisco, Los Angles, and elsewhere in the western part of the country.
“The Shortest Basketball Team in the Nation.” This publicity photograph of Kalamazoo College’s 1944 men’s varsity basketball team gained national attention: team captain Hazen Keyser, Thomas Sugihara, Louie Spitters, Paul Hiyama, and Gus Birtsas. (Kalamazoo College Archives)
Bengali New Year Festival, 1980. Messiah Lutheran Church, Minneapolis. Photographed by Elizabeth M. Hall.
A group of young Korean children, dressed in matching outfits, sing in front of City Hall, Detroit, Michigan. 1954.
Phylypo Tum of the Cambodian Humanitarian Organization for Peace on Earth, known as C-HOPE, hosts the spelling contest at the Khmer Language Gala.
The Khmer Culture Preservation Gala provides Cambodian children an opportunity to display their knowledge of language and culture, and to compete for cash prizes. The gala is hosted and sponsored by community and business leaders as a way to promote the development and retention of the Khmer language and culture in Long Beach. At these events, young Cambodians are introduced to key culture bearers and elders in the community, and meet young Cambodian professionals who can serve as role models.
Filipino United Farm Workers Union (UFW) supporters picket outside of a California Safeway store, February 1973. The UFW union reached a three-year contract with major grape growers in 1970 after years of struggle and a nationwide grape boycott. However, in 1973 when the contracts expired, major grape growers signed “sweetheart” contracts which the UFW responded with strikes and a nationwide boycott of lettuce and grapes.
The whole movement began in Coachella in the summer of 1965 when a group of Filipino workers went on strike demanding that their wages be increased from $1.10 an hour as well as better living conditions. After a succesful first strike they did it again, but this time in Delano where wages were also starting at $1.10 an hour. However, the struggle became a lot harder when the growers were very successful in dividing and creating conflict between Mexican and the Filipino workers.
Larry Itliong and Andy Imutan, leaders of the largely Filipino Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC), decided to take action by seeing Cesar Chavez, the leader of the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA). It took several discussions and a lot of faith, but finally the Filipinos and Mexicans joined as one on September 16, to picket the Delano growers. A few months later AWOC and NFWA joined together as the United Farm Workers.
Burial service of High Lee in South Dakota. Chinese mourners with spectators in background. Photographed in 1891 by John C. H. Grabill.
Members of the Thai Association of Southern California pictured with the king and queen of Thailand in Beverly Hills during their visit in 1960. (Courtesy of Nixon Vayupakparnonde)
Thais’ fast-growing influx and their regional concentration in the Los Angeles area is a recent phenomenon that has yet to be thoroughly documented. Thai migration has passed through three stages of the immigration pattern. The first stage, pioneer migration, coincided with the two postwar decades, when only a handful of educated, middle-class Thais immigrated each year. The second stage, group migration, was ushered in by the change in American migration laws; it was marked by a slow but steady increase in numbers and by a gradual change in the composition of the migrant flow. At the present time, the thrid stage, or mass migration, is occuring. Unlike other Southeast Asians, such as the Cambodians and Vietnamese, Thais are not political refugees fleeing persecution or civil strife back home.
Nisei WACs (Women’s Army Corps) pose for their graduation from the Military Intelligence Service Language School at Fort Snelling, Minnesota, prior to their departure to occupied Japan in late 1945. (Courtesy of U.S. Army)
After the war, 11 Nisei (second generation Japanese-American) WACs, one Chinese-American WAC and one Euro-American WAC, all skilled Japanese translators who had trained at the Military Intelligence Service Language School, accepted assignments to the Allied Translator and Interpreter Section of General Douglas MacArthur’s Headquarters in the Army of Occupation in Tokyo, Japan. There they worked as clerks, secretaries and translators.
The Nisei WACs, Americans “with Japanese faces,” were expected to show the Japanese what Americans of Japanese ancestry were like, and to help build bridges across a cultural gap. MacArthur, however, did not approve of enlisted WACs serving overseas. He gave the women a choice of returning to the United States as WACs or being discharged from the Army and serving one-year contracts in Japan as civilians with US federal civil service status. All 13 agreed to stay in Japan as civil servants.