Japanese Immigration to the United States

1880s to Early 20th Century
Japanese immigration began during the 1880s. They came to Hawai’i as contract laborers to work on the sugar plantations. Many immigrations then went to the mainland finding manual labor work on the railroads, in the fields, at sawmills, or clearing mines. Due to the Chinese Exclusion Ace, the need for unskilled workers led to this wave of immigration. Over time, many immigrants started businesses and families.

Some white Americans were suspicious of Japanese immigrants who looked different and were of a different culture. The children of these immigrants born in the US automatically gained citizenship while their parents were barred by law from becoming naturalized citizens until the 1950s. Despite the hostile environment, Japanese immigrants and their American-born children settled down and built ethnic communities and intuitions. Over the next four decades, several thousand Japanese immigrated to the US.

Last updated: September 3, 2019

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