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Harada House that was constructed in 1886 is located on 3356 Lemon Street in Riverside, California. It represents the essence of an important case that verifies exclusion legislation. The case of California v. Harada 1916-1918 is one of the first constitutional tests regarding the California Alien Land Law of 1913, in which the right of children of Japanese immigrants living in the US was considered regarding owning houses. This case created a precedent associated with the related challenges to such laws. Taking into account that the California Alien Land Law was a serious barrier to the provision of immigrants’ rights, it is essential to explore the case associated with Harada House in detail, focusing on the history, related laws, and the position of immigrant Japanese in the US.
Aligning Harada House and History of California
Harada House is a historical object that was previously occupied by Jukichi Harada and his family in the 20th century. This house is architecturally similar to other houses in downtown Riverside, having one or two stores and shiplap siding. It has a small yard as well as several trees and bushes nearby. Even though the general interior of this building looks traditional, it seems evident some historically important events took place there. Harada House is granted a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service and the US Department of the Interior. The house is currently managed by the efforts of the Riverside Metropolitan Museum. Visitors may also observe the Riverside Cultural Heritage Board plaque in front of the Harada House.
When Jukichi and Ken Harada moved to the US, they sought to find a better life. The father of the family opened a Japanese restaurant for the local compatriots to have some money for living. However, for economic reasons and even more because of racial discrimination, Japanese were concentrated in special neighborhoods, the so-called Little Tokyo areas.1 The Japanese communities played an important role in the Japanese colonies, establishing a special form of economic assistance named “tanamoshi”. When three children were born, Harada tried to purchase a house for the family, yet the existing legislation allowed doing it only for the citizens and African Americans. When this issue was referred to the court, it became known as The People of the State of California v. Jukichi Harada. While neighborhood citizens attempted to force Haradas to move outside Riverside, the Supreme Court decided in favor of this family due to the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution. Taking into account that these children were naturally-born Americans, they had the right to buy a property.
The history of Harada House is associated with the California Alien Land Law of 1913 that also called the Webb-Haney Act, according to which foreigners were not eligible for US citizenship and house ownership. The Japanese immigrants could lease land for no more than three years, and the land plots acquired by the Japanese in ownership of the publication of the law could not be sold or handed over to the other Japanese without American citizenship.2 To understand the purposes of the mentioned legislation, it is essential to consider some historical points. First, from the very beginning, Japanese immigration collided in the United States with anti-Japanese propaganda. In 1907, a Gentlemen’s Agreement was concluded between the United States and Japan, according to which the Japanese were not allowed to enter the country to find a job.
Accepted by President Roosevelt, this Act limited the issuance of working passports for work abroad, so that 70,000 Japanese returned home from 1910 to 1920.3 Second, anti-Japanese feelings were evoked by lively agitation, which was conducted in the interests of large land and industrial companies. The US population was told that some national peculiarities of the Japanese supposedly give them advantages over American landowners, employees, and traders. Third, the idea that the Japanese farmers and large landowners were eager to seize all vacant lots in California and that they can seize political control over the affairs of the state with the support of their government were promoted. Fourth, in 1905, California accepted the law on the prohibition of mixed marriages between Whites and Japanese, and in 1906, in San Francisco declared the law on separate education of children of Japanese origin. This agitation was affected by the desire of Californian farmers to eliminate the rivalry with the Japanese workers.
There were a series of foreign land laws as legislative efforts to prevent Asians and other “undesirable” immigrants from settling constantly in the US territories by restricting their rights on owning land and property. Since the Naturalization Act of 1870 enlarged only African Americans’ citizenship rights ignoring other ethnic groups, these laws relied on an implicit language, excluding aliens who do not have the right to citizenship, thus preventing Asian immigrants, primarily Chinese and Japanese, from becoming landowners.4 Various similar laws were accepted in more than a dozen states, and likewise other discriminatory attempts targeting minorities from arranging homes and companies in some areas, many foreign land laws remained in effect only theoretically, being ignored or forgotten.
Specifically to California laws, one should point out the following issues:
- In 1879, the state revised its Constitution to restrict the ownership of land to foreigners, who have a white race or an African descent.
- In 1913, California’s Foreign Land Law prohibited foreigners who did not have the right to citizenship from entering into rent conditions for more than three years and owning property.
- In 1920, further restrictions were added to the law of 1913, making any rent conformity with illegal immigrants and forbidding companies owned by immigrants who did not have the right to acquire citizenship from buying land.
The Japanese tried to circumvent the Gentlemen’s Agreement and the California Alien Land Law by transferring land to the name of their children born in America and, therefore, having civil rights, including the right to acquire land.5 Another option was employing American citizens as front-line co-owners of the land. Among Americans of Japanese origin, there were immigrants of the first generation called in American terms aliens corresponding to the Japanese term issei. Americans of Japanese origin of the second generation – citizens born in the US – were called nissei.6 In the case of California v. Harada 1916-1918, the state’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of Jukichi Harada and his wife, who bought the house on behalf of their three children born in the US, finding that children’s citizenship gave them the right to own real estate despite their status as nissei.
The importance of the described court case is great. In particular, it allowed Haradas to live in their house until the beginning of World War II when they were relocated to different cities. The second significant implication is associated with the right of American-born children whose parents represent other ethnicities to own houses. This was an improvement in California’s legislation that may be evaluated as a step towards eliminating racial discrimination and ensuring proper treatment of all ethnicities. Despite the above implications, some legal challenges for aliens living in the US remained critical for many years.
Speaking of further consequences and events, it is essential to mention that on December 1, 1925, the New Nationality Law was accepted in Japan, according to which the Japanese born in the US after the publication of this act automatically lost their Japanese citizenship if they were not registered within 14 days at the Japanese consulate.7 Thus, those registered in the mentioned consulate received two citizenships, both Japanese and American. To create an interest in acquiring dual citizenship, the law provided the loss of property and the right to inherit in Japan. People born before the law were also able to announce their desire to obtain Japanese citizenship by applying to the consulate. Most of the Japanese citizens of American citizens who lived in California in those years had dual citizenship.
Harada House history is rather important in considering the story of California on a broader scale. It seems that the agricultural development of this fertile land, which is called the sunniest place, is one of the characteristic features. After the construction of the first transcontinental railroads that led to San Francisco in 1869 and Los Angeles in 1883, the agrarian colonization of California began to grow rapidly.8 At the beginning of the 20th century, California turned into the main orchard of the country as well as the largest vegetable producer. This period can also be attributed to the flourishing of the California oil industry as the first oil deposits were discovered here in the 1860s. In 1913, California accounted for half of the country’s oil production.
The described data shows that California was a rapidly developing state, requiring more workforce, talented people, and equal opportunities. Therefore, the decision in favor of Harada seems to be rather beneficial to both the family and the state in general. Living in California, Haradas received a chance to live a worthy life and contribute to the development of the state by running a restaurant, which united many Japanese and American people, thus promoting good relationships and mutual trust.
In conclusion, one should stress that Harada House is an important historical building that represents the struggle for human rights and the elimination of racial discrimination. When in the mid-nineteenth century the Americans put an end to Japan’s self-isolation, a flow of Japanese immigrants targeted the US. The local population of California was dissatisfied with the fact that cheap labor began to take their jobs away, which led to an increase in anti-Japanese sentiment. The Gentlemen’s Agreement, the California Alien Land Law of 1913, the Naturalization Act of 1870, and others declared aliens living in the US non-eligible to buy houses. The case of California v. Harada 1916-1918 allowed children of Japanese immigrants born in the US to acquire citizenship and the right to own property. This was a great step on the way to address racial discrimination.
Fleming, Maria, ed. A Place at the Table: Struggles for Equality in America. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.
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Rawitsch, Mark. The House on Lemon Street: Japanese Pioneers and the American Dream. Colorado: University Press of Colorado, 2012.
- Mark Rawitsch, The House on Lemon Street: Japanese Pioneers and the American Dream (Colorado: University Press of Colorado, 2012), 295.
- Maria Fleming, A Place at the Table: Struggles for Equality in America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 88.
- Mark Rawitsch, The House on Lemon Street: Japanese Pioneers and the American Dream (Colorado: University Press of Colorado, 2012), 167.
- Rawitsch, The House on Lemon Street, 31.
- Ibid., 33.
- Ibid., 227.
- Maria Fleming, A Place at the Table: Struggles for Equality in America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 92.
- Mark Rawitsch, The House on Lemon Street: Japanese Pioneers and the American Dream (Colorado: University Press of Colorado, 2012), 243.