Date of Award

Spring 1982

Document Type

Thesis

Department

History

First Advisor

Robert Swartout

Second Advisor

Donald Roy

Third Advisor

Rev. Jeremiah Sullivan

Abstract

On February 19, 1942 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order No. 9066. With full knowledge that the order would most likely be found unconstitutional, the president nevertheless signed it and thereby gave the U. S. Army the authority to initiate the evacuation and incarceration of over 112,000 Japanese Americans from the Pacific Coast states. Thus, using a myth of military necessity as justification, the federal government both sanctioned and began to carry out one of the worst incidents of disregard for the civil rights of a group of American citizens in the history of the nation. Popular and widespread racial prejudice, rather than any military necessity, provided the motive for confining these Japanese Americans in concentration camps. That this racial prejudice could succeed in bringing about an injustice of this magnitude was due largely to the successful propagation of an irrational fear of Japanese military aggression against America's West Coast in the minds of many Americans. This threat of military attack was commonly referred to as the "Yellow Peril." It was popularized as early as 1906 by newspaperman William Randolph Hearst and other West Coast leaders. This was done in an attempt to heighten racial tensions on the West Coast and throughout the nation in order to halt the acceptance of Japanese immigrants to the United States. This attempt to induce fear of the Japanese and Japanese Americans succeeded in creating support for the National Origins Act of 1924 which excluded further Japanese immigration. And it continued as racial tensions increased throughout the 1920s and 1930s until ultimately, in February 1942, the fear of the "Yellow Peril" was used to justify the evacuation and incarceration of all Japanese American residents of the Pacific Coast states. Americans throughout the nation experienced and were influenced by racial prejudices and fears of the "Yellow Peril" very similar to those of residents of the West Coast states. Moreover, the results of this prejudice and fear were also very similar. States throughout the inland West passed racially discriminatory laws in the period from 1910- 1924 very similar to laws passed in Pacific Coast states. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, states throughout the inland West reacted in a manner very similar to the Pacific Coast states. Acts of violence and injustice were committed against Japanese Americans even in states with relatively insignificant numbers of Japanese American residents. Thus a resurgence of anti-Asian sentiment swept the nation.

Montana was no exception. In many ways it was typical of the inland western states. Montanans were guilty of the same racial prejudice and fear of the "Yellow Peril" that marked residents of the West Coast states. And Montanans took actions against Japanese Americans which were in many ways like those taken in the West Coast states, if only to a lesser degree. Acts of racial discrimination, violence, and injustice were committed against Japanese Americans in Montana throughout the history of Japanese presence in the state. The questions of how, when, and why these actions took place in Montana, a state apparently quite remote and separated from the roots of the problem, will be addressed in this thesis. Particular attention will be given to the treatment of Japanese Americans in Montana during the years of World War II. In addition, this discussion would not be complete without further investigating the development of Montana's attitudes concerning Japanese Americans since the end of World War II. It is hoped that this discussion of anti-Japanese racism in Montana and the history of its development and ill effects will help to shed light on an important aspect of Montana history which has been heretofore largely ignored.

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