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[TIMELINE] Blocking Racial Intermarriages (1935 & 1937)

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  • madchinaman
    Blocking Racial Intermarriage Laws in 1935 and 1937: Seattle s First Civil Rights Coalition by Stefanie Johnson
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 11 2:22 AM
      Blocking Racial Intermarriage Laws in 1935 and 1937:
      Seattle's First Civil Rights Coalition
      by Stefanie Johnson


      Eastern Europeans not White!
      The bill introduced by King County representative Dorian Todd would
      have outlawed marriage between whites and nonwhites. The most curious
      part of the bill is its definition of white as "persons whose
      ancestral lineage can be traced to inhabitants of any European
      country which had a political existence, or a national identity, or
      racial distinction as a self-governing state prior to 1800, except
      those of Eastern and southeastern Europe embracing the Balkan
      peninsula or states, and Russia as now delineated..."
      The anti-Slavic and anti-Semitic racial demarcation echoed theories
      promoted by Adolph Hitler's Nazi party in 1935.
      The Voice of Action, published by the Communist Party, rallied
      opposition to the 1935 bill that would have banned racial
      intermarriage in Washington State. In the article below, Revels
      Cayton, son of coalition leader Horace Cayton Sr., claims that the CP
      led the fight that defeated the bill.
      The Northwest Enterprise covered the campaign for the African
      American community, providing a more complete view of the coalition
      When the legislature took up the issue of racial intermarriage in
      1937, the Northwest Enterprise again helped rally the black community
      to fight the new bill.
      The Philippine American Chronicle kept the Filipino community
      informed of efforts to stop the 1935 Todd bill


      In an era of American history marked by racial segregation and anti-
      immigrant attitudes, Washington was an anomaly as the only state in
      the West, and one of only eight nationwide, without laws banning
      racial intermarriage. During the early to mid-twentieth century,
      Washington was known throughout the region and the nation for its
      liberal social policies. Interracial couples often traveled long
      distances from states with anti-miscegenation laws to marry in
      Washington .[1] The National Urban League distributed a pamphlet that
      advertised the freedoms that blacks enjoyed in Seattle .[2]

      This progressive legacy surely would not exist had it not
      been for the concerted efforts of an array of civil rights activists.
      When anti-miscegenation bills were introduced in both the 1935 and
      1937 sessions of the Washington State Legislature, an effective and
      well-organized coalition led by the African American, Filipino, and
      progressive labor communities mobilized against the measure.

      The movement against anti-miscegenation laws had two
      different, yet inseparable, long-term impacts on the progressive
      movement in Washington State . The first is obvious: it blocked
      legislation that would have created a precedent for other legally-
      mandated civil rights violations. The second effect is a bit more
      subtle, but equally important. In the process of disarming the anti-
      miscegenationists, activists uncovered their own weapon—the power of
      collaborative action—that would aid their charge for social reform.
      As they spoke with others in one voice against oppression and
      discrimination, each independent advocacy group found unprecedented
      persuasive influence. While the power of grassroots organizing was
      well-known, as were the prototypical benefits of populist movements,
      there had not been a civil rights-related effort of such scale and
      diversity in Washington State up until this point. In this new model
      for Washington State, independent actors argued on behalf of the
      interests of others and in the end, achieved their initial self-
      interested goals that had motivated them to action.

      However, members of this coalition were not solely
      interested in their own group's individual goals. By working
      together, they came to view their own struggles as interconnected
      campaigns in the fight for the equality guaranteed to them in
      America . While on the surface their desires—not to mention their
      lives—were often very different, at the heart of the issue and in
      their desire for American ideals, their goals were indistinguishable
      from one another. In his novel/memoir America is in the Heart, Carlos
      Bulosan, a Filipino activist, captured the idealistic sentiment that
      motivated and encouraged members of the coalition:

      We in America understand that the many imperfections of democracy and
      the malignant disease corroding its very heart. We must be united in
      the effort to make an America in which our people can find happiness…
      We must live in America where there is freedom for all regardless of
      color, station and beliefs. America is a warning to those who would
      try to falsify the ideals of freemen… America is also the nameless
      foreigner, the homeless refugee, the hungry boy begging for a job and
      the black body dangling on a tree…We are all that nameless foreigner,
      that homeless refugee, that hungry boy, that illiterate immigrant and
      that lynched black body. All of us, from the first Adams to the last
      Filipino, native born or alien, educated or illiterate—We are
      America ! [3]

      The threatened anti-miscegenation legislation put Washington's
      reputation and the lives of its racial minorities at risk, giving
      them a stake in this legislation in numerous ways. Additionally, this
      legislation threatened the political influence of the state's
      famously strong leftist labor organizations in their constant
      struggle to expand the rights and privileges of the disenfranchised.
      The Communist Party and some labor unions viewed this attack on
      minority rights also as an attack on the working class. In the name
      of solidarity, the labor left threw its energy behind defeating this

      With the Communists and organized labor beside them, the
      Filipino American and African American communities pressured Olympia
      in protest of the anti-miscegenation bills. Chinese Americans and
      Japanese Americans were also involved in less direct ways. The
      contributions and commitments of the different communities varied.
      In truth, all were important in what they contributed and the angle
      they were able to argue. In reality, none of these actors can be
      divorced from one another. The movement was shaped by its
      contributing actors—from the quiet contributions of the Chinese and
      Japanese communities to the strong leadership of the combined
      organizational efforts of the black, Filipino, and labor communities—
      and its success invariably hinged on the contributions of each.

      1935: House Bill No. 301

      In February 1935, King County Representative Dorian Todd
      proposed House Bill No. 301: a prohibition on marriages of persons of
      Caucasian ancestry to "Negroes, Orientals, Malays, and persons of
      Eastern European extraction."[4] Days earlier, King County Auditor
      Earl Miliken received a request for a marriage license from a
      Filipino man and a white woman. Resolved to prevent the interracial
      couple from wedding, Miliken denied the request. Soon after, then-
      King County Prosecutor Warren Magnuson informed the auditor that
      there was no legal recourse to prevent the marriage. But Miliken was
      not to be dissuaded. Claiming to speak on behalf of the concerns of
      parent-teacher and women's organizations and pleading on a case for
      decency, convinced Magnuson that something must be done.[5] Magnuson
      in turn proposed the bill to Representative Todd, who carried the
      measure to the floor of the state legislature, where it was
      introduced. What began as an attempt to stop a single Filipino man
      from marrying a white woman had quickly evolved into a movement to
      separate all people into racial categories that would determine who
      they could and could not marry. But the breadth of the bill also
      helped mobilize and unite a broad constituency against it. The bill
      never went to a vote; it was tabled by the Committee on Public Morals.

      In response to the bill's introduction, Seattle 's black
      community forged the Colored Citizens' Committee in Opposition to the
      Anti-Intermarriage Bill, and chose veteran political leader Horace
      Cayton, Sr. as its spokesperson. The committee organized the combined
      efforts of Sound End Progressive Club; the NAACP; the Urban League;
      churches; the communist League of Struggle for Negro Rights (LSNR);
      the Filipino Community of Seattle, Inc.; the Washington Commonwealth
      Federation and the Communist Party. The ongoing efforts of the
      Citizens' Committee included lobbying efforts in Olympia and hosting
      protest meetings at the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA and First AME Church .
      In addition, the Citizens' Committee received thousands of protest
      letters and telegrams, which were passed onto Olympia . [7]

      In the black Seattle the efforts of the Colored Citizen's
      committee were backed by the community's major newspaper,, the
      Northwest Enterprise , and by key churches. Churches such as the
      First AME and Mt. Zion Baptist rallied their congregations, hosted
      meetings, and provided leadership. In general, churches disseminated
      information regarding the issue to Seattle 's black population via
      their congregations. The Northwest Enterprise, on both February 7,
      1935 and February 14, 1935, offered reports connecting the anti-
      miscegenation measure and the related churches and religious
      organizations working on the issue.

      Announcements under the "Church Notices" section of the
      paper suggested the importance of the African American press and
      churches to the anti-miscegenation bill movement. One reported on a
      mass meeting of the Colored Citizens Committee at the First A.M.E.
      Church .[8] In addition to general announcements of upcoming events,
      the "Church Notices" section often detailed the sermons of each
      church from the previous week. One such summary reported that at the
      morning service the congregation of Grace Presbyterian Church heard
      Horace Cayton offer "a plea for support to defeat House Bill 301."
      Calls to action were embedded in the day-to-day announcement. For
      example, the above announcement regarding Cayton's remarks was
      followed by this announcement: "Last Friday evening the Phyllis
      Wheatley Girl Reserves presented a two-act comedy at the church that
      was well-attended." [9]

      During the 1935 efforts to block the anti-miscegenation
      legislation, the Northwest Enterprise, covered two related nationwide
      stories on attempts to prevent interracial relationships, punctuating
      the importance of protecting the existing civil rights within
      Washington State . One article told of the extremes that others
      across the nation would go in order to overcome discriminatory
      marriage laws. Weeks after the introduction of the bill in Olympia ,
      the paper reported on a white "Romeo" who had a "pint of blood
      injected into his arm to defeat Georgia 's law against
      intermarriage."[10] Following the injection, the man took an oath
      before authorities, testifying that he did not have pure Caucasian
      blood, thus legalizing his marriage. The article goes on to inform
      readers that this "Romeo," Dr. Fred Palmer, found good fortune in his
      life following this decision, that "despite the forebodings of his
      family and his white friends, upon whom Dr. Palmer turned his back,
      his marriage is recorded as having been highly successful."
      Furthermore, it reported that, "Dr. Palmer's business is also said to
      have prospered in spite of warnings that his marriage would ruin it."

      One week later, the Northwest Enterprise ran a similar
      front-page story; in this case a "not desirable" couple consisting of
      an African American man and a white woman received an eviction notice
      from their Harlem landlord based on this categorization.[12] This
      article went on to highlight the parallel between this case and a
      case from Chicago , where court officials attempted to prove the
      insanity of a woman based on the fact that she had married a black
      man. In the end, the court officials admitted that this woman, Jane
      Newton, was "exceptionally brilliant." Despite this, over the course
      of the trial the prosecutors developed a case against both the man
      and the woman based on a history of activism. The story reports that
      in the end the court freed Jan Newton, but convicted her husband
      on `disorderly conduct' charges, highlighting the considerable
      lengths to which the government would go to prevent interracial

      Much like the Northwest Enterprise , the Philippine
      American Chronicle reported on the inherent flaws of the anti-
      miscegenation bill and the leadership of its community in the fight
      against it. Early in the 1935 legislative session, the paper carried
      an editorial, "Intermarriage Dilemma," discussing the merits of
      intermarriage. Its author questioned the idea that intermarriage
      is "fatal" and points out that people have marriage is a risky
      venture regardless of race—one that individuals had freely joined for
      centuries. He contended that marriage should be determined by love,
      as it always had been, arguing,

      As humans under the laws of a supreme being, irrespective of race,
      color or creed, we have the right to pick our mates, whether she be
      (sic) a white or a colored one, and nothing matters so long as both
      couple adore and understand one another.

      Still, recognizing the complexities raised by
      intermarriage, the article discussed the fact that no relationship
      could be divorced from its environment. Intermarriage might affect
      standing in the public, as well as affect the treatment of their
      children. But, in the end, the author reassured his readers that
      while the social implications of intermarriage might not be easy,
      loving individuals should not avoid marriage because of the potential
      to face discrimination. He wrote, "could all the people be
      cosmopolitan, could the people be broadminded enough to mind their
      own business" they might recognize that in reality, at their heart,
      these people were the same, and perhaps more enlightened than most of
      society for recognizing this common bond despite appearances. [14]

      A different editorial reminded the readers of the
      Philippine American Chronicle that under the Declaration of
      Independence, the United States recognized that all men are created
      equal, endowed with inalienable rights that while not set in the
      Constitution, created an important ethic to respect and enshrine in
      law. The writer continued, "the pending marriage law…renders the
      impossibility of enforcing Americanism in the sense that it breeds
      sectionalism among the peoples of this country… [it] entirely
      deprives either party of those intending to marry of their rights to
      the pursuit of happiness." Pleading to the sentiment of his readers,
      he writes that the United States is known throughout the world as
      the `melting pot,' but that with laws such as the anti-intermarriage
      bill, "the fire that keeps the pot melting is now smoldering into
      ashes of insignificance."[15]

      Aside from editorial arguments, the Philippine American
      Chronicle reported on the involvement of the Filipino community in
      the movement against the anti-miscegenation bill, with a particular
      emphasis on Filipino labor unionists.. Late in February of 1935,
      members of the Cannery Workers' and Farmers' Labor Union Local 18257
      went to Olympia to voice their opinions against the legislation. One
      of the delegates, himself married to a white woman and father of a
      son with that woman, remarked in the newspaper, "In protesting
      against the bill, I am prompted by its future effect not only on my
      son, but to others of American mothers and fathers. It would be
      unfair for any government to manage the affairs of one's heart."
      Another protester argued that the bill was unconstitutional in that
      it deprived either party of their rights in the pursuit of happiness,
      and that "to dictate to whom one should marry or not marry is
      obviously detrimental to our rights." He commented further that the
      bill was "the most vicious bill ever presented in the House."[16]
      Upon their visit, these representatives received assurance that the
      bill would be defeated.[17]

      In 1935, the Japanese American Courier followed the anti-
      intermarriage legislation, yet the message was separate from the
      coalition's efforts, and different in nature from those of Seattle 's
      other racial communities. Furthermore, in comparison to the other
      papers, the Japanese American Courier carried much less coverage of
      the anti-miscegenation bill than both the Northwest Enterprise and
      the Philippine American Chronicle. Where the Courier did write about
      the issue, it was in accord with their general practices, as the
      paper regularly condemned race prejudice—albeit in milder language
      than employed by the Enterprise—and called for racial understanding.

      There are several examples of this practice. The first
      Courier article simply reported that the bill would prohibit
      intermarriage and require a three-day waiting period before a
      marriage license would be issued. While in this report, the Japanese
      American weekly did not directly take aim at the legislation, the
      paper does address the constitutionality and ethics of the proposed
      legislation elsewhere in that issue. A different article recalls a
      statement by Dr. Inazo Nitobe, a well-known Japanese diplomat married
      to an American woman. The paper credits Dr. Nitobe with the perfect
      answer to the "problem of racial marriage." When questioned on his
      own marriage, Nitobe replied, "I did not marry the race, I married an
      individual." The article continues pragmatically, "The problem is not
      one to be regulated by law… If [those considering marriage] are
      resolved to face the consequences of their union, they should be
      commended rather than condemned for it takes not a little moral
      courage to face a situation which is frowned on as severely as
      intermarriage...such legislation is clearly discriminatory." [19]

      The next issue of the Courier carried the bold
      headline, "Rep. Todd's State Marriage Bill Defines Racial Groups"
      with smaller subheads clarifying "Caucasian, Negro, Mongolian,
      Oceanic Races Described; Marriages of Whites with Other Races would
      be Banned."[20] The remainder of the article merely reprinted the
      legislation as introduced, with neither commentary nor invocation of

      Collaboration Between Progressive Whites and Minorities
      The Communist Party used its newspaper, the Voice of
      Action, to highlight its opposition to the 1935 miscegenation bill.
      It set itself apart from its coalition partners by arguing that the
      bill was not only racist, but also anti-labor and anti-working
      people. One report mentioned that one month before the end of the
      legislative session, a mass meeting of the Citizens' Committee
      received a telegram that unofficially told the group that House Bill
      No. 301 would be killed. The report of this event is telling on
      several accounts of the wider framework of action, and of labor's
      self-promotion. The paper goes on to praise itself, as it writes, "it
      was not an accident that the telegram came to the Voice of Action,
      but that it clearly showed what a force the militant white workers,
      liberals and the intellectuals had been in the fight to smash the
      bill."[21] However, despite this apparent victory, the article
      entitled "Continued Pressure urged on Todd Bill" cautioned against
      giving up the fight without assurance that they had won. Before
      elaborating on the good news, the editors warned that rather than
      relying on lobbying alone, "the chance of killing the bill will
      undoubtedly depend upon the continuation of wide mass protest…we
      recommend redoubled protest as a safe guarantee that victories won to
      date…are not lost."[22] The Voice of Action went to great lengths to
      accentuate the connection between the need to fight the anti-
      miscegenation bill and work in common cause with white laborers. One
      article commented, "How Negro-hating goes hand-in-hand with labor-
      hating, and why reactionaries use one to split the other, was shown
      this week by the action of Representative Dorian E. Todd, introducer
      of the vicious Todd anti-intermarriage bill."[23]

      Following the defeat of the 1935 bill, the Voice of
      Action compared Todd and other legislators in support of the measure
      to a lynch mob. It congratulated its readers on their successful
      efforts. It also largely credited itself and militant organized labor
      for the victory on behalf of African Americans. The paper reported
      that politicians underestimated the protest that would arise over the
      Todd Bill, and, in plain language, stated, "The mistake these fine
      gentlemen made was in forgetting the Communist Party." The article
      further commented, "Maybe they thought that we Communists just talk
      of defending the rights of the Negro people in order to catch votes,
      like they do. If that was their idea, they certainly know better now…
      the Negro people can plainly see that they have a true friend in the
      white toilers" again, framing themselves as the defender of African

      Some parts of organized labor utilized its already well-
      developed social network to spread the word to workers throughout
      Washington , as well as across the nation, and encouraged protest. As
      a result, telegrams from unemployed organizations, United Farmers
      Leagues, trade unions, Commonwealth Builders, leading white liberals,
      preeminent educators and professionals flooded Olympia from
      throughout the United States .[25] Others contacted the Seattle
      Central Labor Council shortly after the introduction of the bill,
      urging protest.[26] Likewise, Revels Cayton, prominent in both labor
      and African American circles, and son of Horace Cayton, Sr., the
      prominent leader of the Colored Citizens' Coalition, issued a call to
      arms in Voice of Action that labeled the legislation as an attempt to
      smash unity and at the top of the report, stressed the importance
      with the words, "MUST ACT." He encouraged workers to pass resolutions
      and send letters to the chairman of the Committee on Public Morals
      demanding that he kill House Bill No. 301.[27]

      1937: Senate Bill No. 342

      Two years later, in February 1937, Washington State
      Senator Earl Maxwell introduced a similar measure in the Senate,
      prohibiting marriage between Caucasians and ethnic minorities.
      However, Maxwell took the issue one step further and developed
      penalties for individuals who violate the statute. Comparing the 1937
      and 1935 bills, the Northwest Enterprise commented that "Senator
      Maxwell has taken up the torch [from Representative Todd] and if he
      were to have it his way, he would burn all the bridges of progress
      that education, sportsmanship, interracial understanding and
      progressive thinking have thus far carried this state through years
      of steadfast advancement, unblemished by discriminatory enactment and
      unhaltered by Jim-Crow laws."[28] In the end, Maxwell's bill
      effectively died after it was buried in the Senate Rules committee.
      While still in session and with the legislation pending before the
      committee, Lieutenant Governor Meyers met with protesters from the
      black community and personally pulled the original copy of the bill
      from the file and gave it to the delegates. Although the bill was
      essentially dead, handing over this version, typed and signed by the
      sponsor, assured that there was no remaining possibility that the
      bill could be enacted into law.[29]

      Following the 1935 effort, the Colored Citizens'
      Committee announced that it would continue to function to fight all
      discriminating laws.[30] True to their word, the same organizations
      emerged for the second round of the fight. Seattle 's African
      American community was the central player in driving the force behind
      the lobby in 1937.

      While in the 1935 effort, the Northwest Enterprise called
      for action, reported on coalition meetings, and followed the status
      of the bill quite extensively, in 1937, the paper crusaded with
      fervency. Shortly after Senate Bill No. 342 was introduced, the
      Northwest Enterprise devoted over half of its front page to reports
      and comments on the legislation, calling for widespread action. Apart
      from the dispensing information and mobilizing blacks, the paper used
      articles and editorials to argue against the logic of the bill and
      its far-reaching, unintended consequences. One writer drew from
      examples of other states that had intermarriage laws "in order that
      all citizens may know the facts concerning such laws, and better
      understand why such laws are opposed."[31] Another decried the bill
      for "taking marriage, the most honorable institution of the human
      species, and putting it on a legal plan with fornication, adultery,
      and all the horrible sins catalogued in the Old and New Testaments.
      Additionally, the article described anti-miscegenation laws as "a
      subversion of objective morality that may have far-reaching
      consequence…which white and colored will reap equally."[32] The
      second writer questioned what constitutional rights any other person
      had to take the most basic of rights from another. He argued that the
      laws of love existed "rightly beyond the reach of humans," and that
      any effort to threat these issues otherwise inherently offended the
      institution of marriage. Furthermore, taking on perverse laws would
      demoralize the people of the state and would be a "dastardly and
      derogatory" infliction upon true American values.[33]

      The example of other state's anti-miscegenation laws
      provided ongoing inspiration for the Colored Citizens' Committee's
      campaigns, but not always in ways one might expect. One article in
      the Northwest Enterprise reported that bans in other states "in
      spirit and effect, if not in letter, tend to make the naturally
      honorable relation of marriage a worse crime than the naturally
      dishonest practice of illicit intercourse." This represented an
      effort to reclaim the language of morality and values from anti-
      miscegenation supporters by adopting their main argument: that
      relationships between people of different races are immoral. The
      article went on to argue that the anti-miscegenation bill
      promoted "the very thing it is supposed to defeat—race intermixture,
      by giving perfect immunity to the men of the stronger group" who
      could sleep with women of color but then not feel compelled to marry
      them or even take care of their children. This countered white fears
      about promiscuous men of color by arguing that promiscuous white men
      were the real problem to public morality, and that most people of
      color didn't even want relationships with whites:

      Every year, time, energy, and thousands of dollars must be spent by
      the Negro in the United States in opposition to this and other
      discriminatory laws that tend to nullify his Constitutional heritage.
      Not because of his desire for a mixed family, but for the protection
      of his own colored family…Negroes who oppose the prohibitive laws are
      generally already married and would not consent for their children to
      suffer the inconvenience which it costs to marry a white person in
      America , legally or illegally.

      He believes that a law to compel fathers to marry the
      mothers would break up more miscegenation in a week than a law
      prohibiting marriage will break up in fifty years.[34]

      This strategy of highlighting the protection of family and natural
      prevention of miscegenation as a point of agreement with their
      adversary is a quintessential example of political strategy focused
      on building a diverse coalition of support.

      Aside from the Northwest Enterprise , the churches and
      other black organizations once again took part in the fight. For
      example, the NAACP, which had emerged with greater influence in the
      years between the bills, was an integral player in leading a
      multiracial coalition of 75 whites, blacks, and Filipinos to Olympia
      in opposition to the measure.[35]

      The Filipino community was also once again centrally
      involved in the movement. In March 1937, the Philippine Advocate
      printed an extensive article titled, "No Race Deterioration in Mixed
      Marriages Says Filipino Writer." In this article, the writer,
      Catalino Viado argued that interracial marriages would enhance, not
      detract from the quality of life in America .

      There is absolutely nothing to be afraid of about interracial
      marriages. There will never be any race deterioration. Let us profit
      together by the use of our intelligence, on the right thing and in
      the right way. Let us exercise tolerance, using our judgment wisely
      without petty jealousy and race sentimentalism…Why do you worry about
      the security of the offsprings (sic) of white-brown marriages? When
      we Filipinos love, we love to the core, not artificially and

      Second, the article contends that American society,
      despite all of its positive and admirable characteristics, could
      stand to improve. His final point is perhaps the most persuasive, and
      really a glimpse of the motivations of the coalition—to prevent the
      development of discriminatory ideas understood as truth that would
      naturally follow the existence of discriminatory law. He writes, "Mr.
      Maxwell and others say that marriage of white and black is socially
      ineffective. It may be so when you enact laws to make it so and
      educate the public about it." [37]

      Foundation for the Coalition

      To understand the nature of this working coalition, it is
      important to understand the larger framework shaping minority
      politics and liberal politics in Washington at that time,
      particularly in Seattle which provided the headquarters for this
      movement. The coalition was built largely upon pre-existing ties. The
      diverse groups that emerged as leaders in this movement had a history
      of cooperation with one another, and, in addition to the wide
      spectrum of activism, had an important impact on the efficient and
      organized manner in which the coalition was able to react quickly.
      Likewise, looking closer at the minority and labor groups in Seattle
      exposes areas of disagreement that could have undermined the success
      of the coalition had it not been for the overwhelmingly strong ties
      that did maintain a solid structure.

      Four distinct racial minorities—blacks, Filipinos,
      Japanese, and Chinese—dominated the Seattle 's civil rights politics
      over the 1930s, and each group brought something different to the
      political table in their coalition work to oppose the bills that
      would have banned interracial marriage. It is significant that the
      original 1935 bill to outlaw miscegenation grew in response to a
      proposed marriage between a Filipino man and a white woman.
      Filipinos had a unique experience as newcomers to the United
      States . Thousands of Filipinos grew up under American colonial
      occupation, and traveled to the United States for work or education
      not as Asian immigrants, but as American nationals.[38] Upon arrival,
      they were quick to assume the right to vote, form unions, participate
      in democracy and fight those who sought to restrict their freedoms.
      Many racist Asiaphobes conflated this political assertiveness with
      sexual assertiveness, and began to complain—sometimes through
      violence— about "interracial liaisons" between Filipino men and white
      women.[39] The strong community organizations within the Filipino
      community were well poised to counteract this racist rhetoric. In
      1935, the Filipino-led Cannery and Farm Labor Union dispatched a
      committee of four to Olympia . Speaking on behalf of the Filipino
      community as well as labor unions, this committee shared with
      numerous legislators their opinions regarding the bill. Upon return,
      they dispatched information to the community through the Philippine
      American Chronicle and public meetings.[40]

      But African American resistance also proved invaluable.
      Despite the fact that African American migration to Seattle did not
      grow dramatically until World War II, Seattle's African American
      community was able to gain greater electoral power in the 1930s as
      the Democratic and Republican parties vied for their vote, as well as
      use these campaigns against the anti-miscegenation bills to help
      build up their own community and political organizations. African
      Americans historically voted Republican out of opposition to
      segregationist southern Democrats. But during the Depression, in
      Seattle and around the country outside the South, African Americans
      slowly shifted their alliances from the Republican to Democratic
      Party. Noting the shift to Democrats, Republican leaders in Seattle
      increased their support for civil rights, fair employment, and other
      black community concerns.[41] As a small, but seemingly swayable
      voting block, African Americans were not to be ignored or brushed off
      by politicians, and this aided their lobbying efforts in Olympia .

      The growing presence of African Americans in radical left-
      wing political groups, such as the Communist Party and the Washington
      Commonwealth Federation, also facilitated this growing political
      power.[42] When the Communist Party argued that the anti-
      intermarriage bill was an effort by the ruling-class sought to turn
      the United States into a nation controlled by fascists, they sought
      to both move blacks away from their traditionally Republican Party
      ties as well as help them lead a revitalized labor movement.

      Finally, black community organizations helped ensure the
      defeat of the anti-miscegenation bill. In addition to the Northwest
      Enterprise , many sectors of African American society turned to
      activism during the Depression—including churches, social, and
      political organizations. Founded twenty years earlier, the NAACP and
      the Urban League both were revitalized at this time as leaders and
      members worked to improve conditions of black life and foster the
      full integration of African Americans into the general society.[43]
      The NAACP proved its capability as a legal advocacy organization
      through these efforts; they led the broad-based political coalition
      in opposition to the discriminatory policy. They also strongly
      committed to protecting critical community interests and maintaining
      the state's support of civil rights.[44]

      Japanese groups played a different role in the
      coalition. In general, Japanese intermarried with white people much
      less frequently than Filipinos, partially because many Japanese had
      arranged marriages. This shaped the way that Japanese groups
      participated in their opposition to the proposed ban on

      The Japanese American Courier, the nation's largest
      English-language Japanese newspaper at the time, gave coverage to
      incidents of prejudice and exclusion, but in much milder language and
      with significantly less commentary than newspapers that served
      African Americans or Filipinos in Seattle . [45] As previously
      mentioned, the Courier was not involved in the Citizen's Committee
      campaign against anti-miscegenation laws. Its few reports on the
      topic were less likely to directly attack the racism behind the
      bill. While Seattle 's Japanese population did indeed engage in the
      overall fight against discrimination, their leaders, including
      Courier editor James Sakamoto, had little tolerance for the protest
      strategy associated with organizations like the Seattle NAACP or
      Urban League. Sakamoto opposed the strong stances taken by the NAACP
      and advocated for accommodation to the racial status quo, educational
      advancement, and economic self-sufficiency. Of the Japanese, Sakamoto
      said they should "stay within their own community, support small
      businesses within their area, and emulate the patriotism of white
      America ."[46] Furthermore, there were few organizational links
      between Japanese and other minority groups .[47] This is not to say
      that Japanese did not oppose the measure, but that they were not a
      formal part of the larger coalition that represented a wider range of
      activists working to suppress the bill and did not appear in force in
      protest of the measure.

      Although Seattle 's organized labor community had a long
      history of hostility to Japanese and Chinese workers, radical labor
      organizers included advocacy on behalf of Japanese and Chinese
      workers to their opposition to the bill. In an attempt to garner
      support, Communists argued that because Asians did not threaten
      public order or commit crimes, but instead set up homes, raised
      families, and could be characterized as thrifty and energetic, they
      were at risk of losing their rights. The Communists reasoned that
      because Asians found success and gradually assimilated to American
      society, they threatened the racial segregation that white employers
      desired.[48] If assimilated Asians gained status and strength in
      wealth and held an expectation of rights and a hope for equality with
      their employers, naturally they would threaten white supremacy that
      helped support radically unequal distributions of wealth. According
      to this argument, the whites in power implemented laws such as the
      anti-miscegenation bill in order to prevent assimilation to American
      society; this tactic sought to frame the issue in the minds of
      others: if law stated that Asians could not be assimilated, society's
      assumption would follow.


      In the end, the development and success of this coalition
      built a solid foundation for political organizing in Washington State
      well beyond the boundaries of this specific measure. The cooperative
      action rooted in issues of social justice proved influential in
      public policy development and emboldened activists through a major
      victory. In the years to come the movement grew stronger because of
      networks established and nurtured in the fight against anti-
      miscegenation laws. The 1935 and 1937 campaigns laid the groundwork
      for future multi-ethnic collaboration on subsequent civil rights and
      progressive issues.

      However, it must be said that while these groups
      developed a strong foundation for future action, they were neither
      strangers to organizing their communities, nor to one another
      beforehand. This coalition pulled together so well largely because of
      the preexisting ties that these interest groups and leaders had with
      their communities and with one another. Blacks, Filipinos, and the
      leftist labor movement were not strangers to one another. Filipinos
      drew together its community through the labor union. Blacks relied
      upon the social roles of churches. Both Blacks and Filipino
      organizations rallied their members. White labor utilized its broad
      networks to mobilize progressive workers state- and nationwide.
      Because their interconnectedness predated the actions detailed in
      this paper, it follows that they would be better prepared and
      experienced in working together for any subsequent issue that might
      arise following the 1935 and 1937 efforts. The fact that these groups
      could more easily collaborate following the efforts against anti-
      miscegenation is really a continuance of the same trends that brought
      this coalition together.

      © Stefanie Johnson 2005

      HIST 498C, Fall 2004


      [1] Takaki, Ronald, Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of
      Asian Americans, New York : Penguin Books, 1990, p. 342

      [2] Colbert, Robert E., "The Attitude of Older Negro Residents Toward
      Recent Negro Migrants in the Pacific Northwest ," Journal of Negro
      Education, Vol. 15, No. 4 (Fall 1946), p. 697

      [3] Bulosan, Carlos, America is in the Heart: a Personal History, New
      York : Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1946, p. 189

      [4] "Here's the Anti-Marriage Bill, House Bill No. 301," Northwest
      Enterprise , February 14, 1935

      [5] "Committee Plans Fight on Intermarriage Bill," Northwest
      Enterprise , February 7, 1935

      [6] "Anti-Intermarriage Bill Held in Committee", Northwest
      Enterprise , March 31, 1935

      [7] Taylor, Quintard, The Forging of a Black Community: Seattle 's
      Central District, from 1870 Through the Civil Rights Era, Seattle :
      University of Washington Press, 1994, p. 94

      [8] "Church Notices," Northwest Enterprise , February 14, 1935, p. 3

      [9] "Church Notices," Northwest Enterprise , February 7,1935, p. 4

      [10] "White Romeo Injected Negro Blood To Beat Marriage Law,"
      Northwest Enterprise , March 14, 1935, p. 1

      [11] Northwest Enterprise , March 7,1935, p. 1

      [12] "Colored Man with White Wife Not Desirable," Northwest
      Enterprise , March 14, 1935, p. 1

      [13] Northwest Enterprise , March 14, 1935, p. 1

      [14] "Intermarriage Dilemma," Philippine American Chronicle,
      February, 15, 1935, p. 2

      [15] "Americanism," The Philippine American Chronicle, March 1, 1935,
      p. 2

      [16] "Filipino Labor Union Local Sends Delegates to Olympia ; Report
      Findings on Bill 301," Philippine American Chronicle, March 1, 1935

      [17] "Filipino Labor Union Local Sends Delegates to Olympia ; Report
      Findings on Bill 301,"Philippine American Chronicle, March 1, 1935,
      p. 1

      [18] Taylor , p. 119

      [19] "The Marriage Questions," Japanese American Chronicle, February
      9, 1935, p. 2

      [20] "Rep. Todd's State Marriage Bill Defines Various Racial Groups,"
      Japanese American Courier,

      February 16,1935 p. 1

      [21] "Continued Pressure urged on Todd Bill," Voice of Action,
      February 22, 1935, p.1

      [22] "Continued Pressure urged on Todd Bill," Voice of Action,
      February 22, 1935, p.1

      [23] "Todd Exposed as Enemy of Labor," Voice of Action, March 1,
      1935, p.1

      [24] "Defeat of Todd Bill Victory of Unity Between White Workers,
      Negro People," Northwest Enterprise , March 29, 1935, pp. 1, 4

      [25] "Defeat of Todd Bill Victory of Unity Between White Workers,
      Negro People," Northwest Enterprise , March 29, 1935, pp. 1, 4

      [26] "Todd Exposed as Enemy of Labor," Voice of Action, March 1,
      1935, p.1

      [27] "Anti-intermarriage Bill is Attempt to Smash Unity," Voice of
      Action, February 15, 1935, p. 3

      [28] "The Miscegenation Marriage Bill," Northwest Enterprise ,
      February 26, 1937, p. 1

      [29] Acena, Robert A., "The Washington Commonwealth Federation:
      Reform Politics and the Popular Front," p. 154

      [30] "Anti-Intermarriage Bill Held in Committee," Northwest
      Enterprise , March 31, 1935, p. 4

      [31] "Intermarriage Bill: a menace and demoralizing," Northwest
      Enterprise , February 26, 1937, p. 1

      [32] "The Miscegenation Marriage Bill," Northwest Enterprise ,
      February 26, 1937, p. 1

      [33] "The Miscegenation Marriage Bill," Northwest Enterprise ,
      February 26, 1937, p. 1

      [34] "Intermarriage Bill: a menace and demoralizing," Northwest
      Enterprise , February 26,1937, p. 1

      [35] Taylor , p. 264 (notes)

      [36] "No Race Deterioration in Mixed Marriages Says Filipino Writer,"
      Philippine Advocate, March 1937, p. 1

      [37] "No Race Deterioration in Mixed Marriages Says Filipino Writer,"
      Philippine Advocate, March 1937, p. 1

      [38] Philippine American Chronicle, March 15, 1935, p. 2

      [39] Taylor , p. 124

      [40] "Filipino Labor Union Local Sends Delegates to Olympia ; Report
      Findings on Bill 301," Philippine American Chronicle, March 1, 1935,
      p. 1

      [41] Taylor , p. 104-105

      [42] Taylor , p. 105

      [43] Taylor , p. 95

      [44] Taylor , p. 93

      [45] Taylor , p. 119

      [46] Taylor , p. 131-132

      [47] Taylor , p. 127, 131-132

      [48] Cox, Oliver C., "The Nature of the Anti-Asiatic Movement," The
      Journal of Negro Education, Volume15 No. 4 (Autumn, 1946), p. 614.
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