The Japanese Question: San Francisco Education in 1906
On October 11, 1906, a policy adopted by the San Francisco Board of Education intending to segregate Japanese students to ‘Oriental schools’ in San Francisco, created a national and international controversy. On this day, the San Francisco Board of Education directed that school principals in San Francisco public schools to send “all Chinese, Japanese and Korean children to the newly formed Oriental School.” While Chinese students had historically been excluded and segregated from San Francisco schools, this policy marked the first time that the segregation of Japanese students was enforced by school officials in San Francisco. This abrupt change in school policy angered Japanese individuals both locally and abroad in Japan: Japanese government officials argued that it violated the Treaty of 1894, granting Japanese in the United States the same rights as citizens. The tensions caused by the newly adopted policy risked disrupting President Roosevelt’s foreign policy objectives with Japan, a growing military power after a 1905 victory in the Russo-Japanese War. Thus, what began as a local school segregation issue soon created a national and international controversy. This case can be classified as a political rather than legal case that highlights the relationships between local and federal governance and interests as well as how racial discriminatory practices influence policies and systems on various levels.