Film of Japanese Americans in San Francisco, circa 1920

  |   History, Video   |   2 Comments

The black and white footage at the beginning of this video, grabbed from the Square America blog, shows some dapper Japanese-American immigrants in the 1920s in San Francisco. Especially dignified given the open historical discrimination against them, even before the internment atrocities of WWII.

Be sure to check out this poignant 1942 timeline from the SF Chronicle of the history of the Japanese American community in SF, which ends with the last of 5,280 people being “evacuated” out of the city.

Last night Japanese town was empty. Its stores were vacant, its windows plastered with “To Lease” signs. There were no guests in its hotels, no diners nibbling on sukiyaki or tempura. And last night, too, there were no Japanese with their ever present cameras and sketch books, no Japanese with their newly acquired furtive, frightened looks…

They left San Francisco by the hundreds all through last January and February, seeking new homes and new jobs in the East and Midwest. In March, the Army and the Wartime Civil Control Administration took over with a new humane policy of evacuation to assembly and relocation centers where both the country and the Japanese could be given protection. The first evacuation under the WCCA came during the first week in April, when hundreds of Japanese were taken to the assembly center at Santa Anita. On April 25 and 26, and on May 6 and 7, additional thousands were taken to the Tanforan Center. These three evacuations had cleared half of San Francisco. The rest were cleared yesterday.

I wonder what became of the hopeful, posing folks in the above film clip during this era. (I presume the second, color portion of the clip means they managed to stay together, even if they had to move to Chicago.)

  • charinsky | Dec 2, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    I like the old b&w footage the best. The girl in glasses reminds me of myself in 3rd grade.

  • CS Arceo | Dec 18, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    I love this poignant look at early 20th Century Asian America- upon seeing this footage i can see now an epiphany- Without thse acestors there would be no you and I. I literally whooped out in approval when i saw the reel! I use to live in esseff as of only 3 weeks ago for five years; i moved back to seattle where i came from so i can appreciate some slice of asian america. I’m half Filipina and I was born there but grew up in seattown. yes, I had the mom, her sister and my grandma that would take us all the way to vancouver’s chinatown just for eggpies. westcoast is the bestcoast and the eastcoast is the other coast… right?