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Wed Oct 11, 2023, 08:59 AM Oct 2023

On This Day: Japanese school segregation in San Francisco leads to war scare - Oct. 11, 1906

(edited from article)
On October 11, 1906, the San Francisco Board of Education ordered that Japanese students in the city’s public schools henceforth be taught in racially segregated schools. The announcement sparked a diplomatic crisis between Japan and the United States, prompting President Theodore Roosevelt to send Commerce and Labor Secretary Victor Metcalf, a native Californian, to San Francisco in an effort to persuade the school board to change its decision.

In early 1907, the president began working out the details for what was be termed the “Gentleman’s Agreement” with Japan. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts, a personal friend and key congressional supporter of Roosevelt, added an amendment to an immigration bill that gave the president the authority to ban any foreign individual’s entry to the U.S. if the admission would adversely affect labor conditions. Despite Southern Democratic opposition, the bill passed in February 1907. In early March, the Roosevelt administration convinced Japan to issue passports only to those going to Hawaii. With the new immigration restrictions adopted, the San Francisco school board reversed its segregation order.

The Gentlemen’s Agreement seemed to resolve the conflict for a time, but anti-Japanese rioting broke out in San Francisco in late May 1907. Local police halted further violence, but Japan was angered and newspapers in both countries ignited another war scare. In June, Roosevelt ordered the American fleet to the Pacific and requested military officials to draft war contingency plans. To ease Japanese fears, the fleet movement was labeled a practice cruise, and government officials in Japan and the United States were able to cool the war fever.

It was clear, however, that immigration from Japan was continuing at about the same level as before the agreement. The Roosevelt administration renewed its pressure on Japan, which included a visit from Secretary of War William Howard Taft in September 1907. By early the next year, Japan agreed to tighten their emigration procedures and to halt the immigration of laborers to Hawaii. Immigration from Japan to the United States fell steeply in 1908, and the improving relationship between the two nations was embodied that November in the Root-Takahira agreement, which sought to secure peaceful trade in the Pacific. Still, it took direct pressure from President Roosevelt in the last months of his presidency to prevent the California legislature from enacting a state school segregation measure and a law against restricting Japanese landownership.

(edited from Wikipedia)
The Gentlemen's Agreement of 1907 was an informal agreement between the United States of America and the Empire of Japan whereby Japan would not allow further emigration to the United States and the United States would not impose restrictions on Japanese immigrants already present in the country. The goal was to reduce tensions between the two Pacific nations such as those that followed the Pacific Coast race riots of 1907 and the segregation of Japanese students in public schools.

The Gentlemen's Agreement was never written into a law passed by the US Congress but was an informal agreement between the United States and Japan, enacted via unilateral action by President Roosevelt. It was nullified by the Immigration Act of 1924, which legally banned all Asians from migrating to the United States.


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