Santa Barbara County, the State of California, and the United States have benefitted greatly from the contributions of Japanese-Americans who began immigrating well over 150 years ago. Japanese Americans have endured a history of discrimination, exclusion, and violence America has imposed on their community.

The immigration of Japanese citizens to the United States began after the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed in 1882. Most Chinese came to the United States during California’s Gold Rush, and many stayed on as laborers to build the nation’s railroads. After most of the railroad system had been built, many Chinese became agricultural workers, known as “stoop labor” in California.

As The Act prohibited Chinese immigration for a ten-year period–in addition to other restrictions–Hawaii’s sugar plantations brought  Chinese laborers to Hawaii. Their absence from the mainland left a shortage of agricultural workers in California.

Guadalupe Women's Association - 1926

Guadalupe Women’s Association – 1926

California needed a new laboring class. Japanese immigrated to California in pursuit of education and opportunities that America promised its immigrants. Most were hired to support the state’s expanding agricultural, canning, fishing, or lumber industries. Japanese domestic workers were highly regarded, despite general anti-Asian sentiment. Japantowns were settled up and down the state. In Santa Barbara County, there were three main Japantowns: Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, and Guadalupe.

Soon, California’s legislators petitioned to limit the rights and freedoms of Japanese Americans. In 1924, the California State Federation of Labor held their annual meeting in Elks’ Hall in Santa Barbara, California. The convention was hosted by Santa Barbara’s Elks’ Club.

The Federation of Labor included hundreds of members who represented thousands of California’s workers employed in various fields such as moving picture operators, letter carriers, milk wagon drivers, mechanics, garment workers, bricklayers, bakery wagon drivers, stenographers, marine firefighters, cooks, hospital stewards, painters, musicians, and many others.

VS McClatchy, newspaperman and owner of the Sacramento Bee, gave an impassioned address to the assemblage regarding the anti-Japanese movement in California (page 20). Mr. McClatchy stated, “Accordingly, the American Federation of Labor, the American Legion, and the National Grange unanimously approved that plan and demanded its adoption by Congress. The California State bodies of the three great organizations named, together with the Native Sons of the Golden West, decided to act in cooperation on this issue.”

Their advocacy, along with a groundswell of publc support against Japanese immigrants, resulted in Congress passin the Johnson-Reed Immigration Act of 1924, clearly aimed at limiting not only Japanese from immigrating, but “all Asiatic” people. Legislation also prohibited the sale, lease, or ownership of property.

This dark chapter in American history set the stage for even darker in the future.

Teruko Tani, her Family, and their Farm – 1921

For additional information about Japanese Americans in the 1920s, there are many resources in the public domain. A few are listed below:

While there are those in the United States who advocate for banning certain books and for removing Black history from the curriculum of some US schools, the public domain protects many important works and makes them available – free of charge. Several examples of Black literature from the 1920s are listed below, accessible through repositories such as Project Gutenberg, Library of Congress, Google Books, and the Internet Archive.

The Souls of Black Folk, by W.E.B. DuBois, banned in some schools and US prisons, is made available through Project Gutenberg.

The Library of Congress holds a collection of work by Zora Neal Hurston, including Meet the Mamma: A Musical Play in Three Acts.

Caroling Dusk, An Anthology of Verse by Negro Poets, Edited by Countee Cullen, features works by poets Paul Lawrence Dunbar, James Weldon Johnson, Angelina Weld Grimké, Mary Effie Lee Newsome, Claude McKay, and Langston Hughes, among many others.

Porgy, a novel by Du Bose Heyward, published in 1925, was adapted for a play of that name in 1927. In 1935, Mr. Heyward worked with George Gershwin to create an operatic version of the story, titled Porgy and Bess.

Black Opals, available through Internet Archive, presents the works of young Black Americans of “unquestioned talents” who had few venues

through which to share their works. The literary journal was associated with the Harlem Renaissance.

Alain Locke is considered by many to be one of the “architects of the Harlem Reniassance.” Educated at Harvard and Oxford Universities, Mr. Locke was the first Black Rhodes Scholar. His book, The New Negro – An Interpretation, published in 1925, include works of fiction, and poetry, prose and essays, contributed by prominent Black Americans.

The book design and illustrations are by Winold Reiss, a German-born American artist and graphic designer who created portraits of America’s people, including Native, Black, Mexican, and European Americans. From the Winold Reiss website:

“Reiss believed that by picturing the honor, beauty, and dignity of all peoples, his art could help break down racial prejudices and testify to what Johann Wolfgang von Goethe called the ‘unity of all creation.’ His wish was to use art to change the world.”

– Jeffrey C. Stewart is a professor of Black Studies at University of California at Santa Barbara and the chair of the Black Studies Department.


Censorship in the 1920s

The 1920s was the first time American youth had a culture of their own. Prior to WWI, there was little interaction with the larger world, especially in a mostly-rural nation. Culture was regional and consistent. However, by the 1920s, the United States integrated technology perfected during the war, like cars, radios, photography, motion pictures, and advances in all types of communication.

The war also moved Americans around as never before, and they returned home with an expanded view of their world. The conflict introduced millions of Americans to the diversity of other cultures, and the realization that their own lives were increasingly affected by global influences.

Young people, especially those who experienced, first hand, the realities of war, embraced fatalism tempered with abandon. The bedrock of society was often perceived as a sham benefitting few, controlling the masses.

Rebellion was reflected in music, literature, and films. The youth of America veered into unknown territory, freed from outdated ideas and their own previous naïveté. The youth culture emerged. Fashion ditched stuffy constraints; silhouettes were looser and more freeing, especially for women. Chaperones were passé; those of the old school saw modern dating as dangerous, and cars as  “rolling bedrooms.” Films splashed sexy scenes onto the big screen; actors became influencers and stars with millions of fans hanging on their every move. Libraries and bookstores offered modern literature with fresh ideas that spoke to a generation demanding civil rights, voting rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and especially the right to free speech.

After the Civil War, Uncle Tom’s Cabin was banned in the United States, as it was pro-abolishionist; it threatened the status quo by rousing widespread debate. This spawned an era of censorship intended to control access to materials and ideas in conflict with those in p0wer.

By the 1920s, special interest groups sought to ban books and movies that offended their base. In 1922, The Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, later known as Motion Picture Association of America, was formed with Former Postmaster General William H Hays as its leader. That Marvel – The Movie, a book published in 1923, included an introduction by Hays. The author (and Hays) cite the need to protect Americans from themselves by censorship of radical thoughts and ideas that were not in keeping with prevailing Protestantism and the ruling male hierarchy.

In 1923, The American Civil Liberties Union published a pamphlet, Civil Liberty,  their statement on an individual’s rights in the United States of America. Publications such as Bibliography on Censorship and Propaganda, targeted at youth, described how censorship and propaganda were effective tools of social control.

In 1925, the Scopes Trial polarized American society.

Booksellers and Book Bans

Booksellers and many librarians defied acts of censorship and helped to galvanize readers locally, in many locations throughout the United States. They were important advocates in the fight for intellectual freedom and freedom of speech. Hoping to avoid actions like those taken by the City of Boston, a city that became famous for the number of classic literary works they banned, including those by Upton Sinclair, HG Wells, John Dos Passos, Bertrand Russell, and others.

This year, during the week of September 18 – 24, 2022, the American Library Association (ALA) has asked readers to support Banned Books Week. This annual event celebrates the freedom to read, an important freedom especially in this era of increasing censorship.

The Washington Post published an article by Angela Haupt (2022 06 09), titled, The Rise in Book Bans, Explained. She cites Jonathan Friedman, Director of Free Expression and education at PEN America, who said current efforts to ban books from schools and libraries is “unprecedented in its scale, and in the proliferation of organized groups” who want to remove entire lists of books from public access. PEN reported there were 1586 instances of books being banned in a nine month period through March 2022. (See the list of books on

To learn more, visit Unite Against Book Bans.

Advocates for Intellectual Liberty in the 1920s – And Today

In 1923, the American Civil Liberties Union published a pamphlet stating that “all though on matters of public concern should be freely expressed without interference.” Civil Liberty is a brief publication denouncing repression, stating that it does not protect individuals nor evade conflict, but leads, instead, to violence and division.

Project provides a list of books that have been banned from 387BC to 1978AD, and are available online, free.

The University of Pennsylvania has offered readers online access to some of the books that have been banned from schools and libraries.