Americans by Birth

Though Japanese immigrants were denied citizenship, they put down roots in the United States and started families. Their children, born here, were Americans, entitled to the full rights and protections of citizenship. Both generations were part of a broader, diverse community, interacting with neighbors, coworkers, and classmates. But systems of segregation, both legal and informal, impacted their daily lives.


Pledging allegiance to the flag at Raphael Weill Public School in San Francisco, 1942
Dorothea Lange, Courtesy of National Archives

The Shibuya family of Mountain View, California, 1942
Dorothea Lange, Courtesy of National Archives

Students at Raphael Weill Public School, 1942
Dorothea Lange, Courtesy of National Archives 


"My grandfathers left little behind in Japan; both second sons of peasant farmers, they had no claim to family rice plots. Yet in California they discovered Alien Land laws of 1913 and 1920 that prevented ‘Orientals’ from land purchases, singling out the immigrants from Asia and condemning a generation to life as laborers. But they stayed, working the fields for strangers. . . . They sacrificed so the next generation could have opportunity."

—David Mas Masumoto, 2002

Students at the University of California, Berkeley, around 1940
Courtesy of Takako Endo