What was life like for non-negro minorities during the time of segregation?

Say Asians, Indians, Latinos, etc. Could they vote? Ride the front of the bus? Get good jobs? Use white-only facilities?

Or was negro shorthand for non-white and they were all just as screwed?

My wife is Japanese-American and her entire family spent World War 2 in internment camps, so there’s one answer right there.

I lived in Texas during the 1950’s, and I remember enough to know you didn’t want to even look like you were a Mexican there.

Of course, many private clubs were “restricted” – a catchall term that exluded blacks, Jews and anyone else who wasn’t wanted.

And many restrictive covenants were written to exclude non-whites in general, not just blacks.

In the south, Mexicans or Latinos in general (many signs said simply “Mexicans”) were subject to the same segregation laws as blacks. OTOH, a German straight off the boat who arrived in 1945 whose father was an SS officer could go anywhere she pleased (not hypothetical, my mother’s closest friend for many years matched this description; she married a U.S. soldier, but managed to stay when she divorced him).

Asians were trickier. A few servicemen brought home Japanese war brides after WW2, and then Korean war brides a few years later, and there was large debate over whether these marriages were legal. Ultimately it was usually agreed that the marriages were legal, but it was a very touchy issue, and for an odd reason:

American Indians, of which Alabama had a good many (Poarch Creeks and Seminoles) living on reservations in the south, were subject to the same laws as well, but from the many old folks I’ve talked to the towns people were a lot more likely to turn the other cheek for them than they were for black people. Indians, from the 19th century to the then-present, were largely romanticized in pop-culture, plus it was a very popular thing to be able to say “I’ve got Cherokee blood” so long as you were very identifiably white, so the Indians weren’t quite as looked down on as the blacks (about whom NOBODY white would say “I’ve got black blood”, even if they did). (Of course a lot of Indians had black blood and a lot of blacks had Indian blood, which was another topic.) However, you could not marry a full-blood, and some municipalities would not allow selling alcohol to them long into the 20th century.
Mississippi added Chinese to their miscegenation laws in the 19th century. Many of the Chinese immigrants who came for the railroads came south and worked on farms as paid laborers or sharecroppers later and some married black people- this was allowed and in fact one of Whoopi Goldberg’s grandfathers or great-grandfathers was married to a Chinese woman (she tells the story in one of her books), but Chinese could not marry white. (Most Chinese people married other Chinese people of course; they tended to be very clannish due to language bariers and cultural differences and of course as self-protection.)

It changed a little bit after WW2. Anecdotal, but true: a man I know from Mississippi married a Filipino in the 1950s and brought her home to his family, where she encountered a lot of prejudice but mostly acceptance from the community, especially once she traded Catholicism for Baptist. What changed the way she was treated though was that a black GI from the same small town also returned with an Asian bride. While a black person could not marry a white person, the fact that they could both marry an Asian made people’s prejudice rise, and in some areas the miscegenation codes came to be enforced to mean ANYBODY non-white.

I could look it up, but I wonder what the laws were considering Anglos marrying Mexicans in Texas.

IIRC, Japanese war brides had much more difficulty in getting cleared to come to America after WW2 than German/Italian/other white Axis war brides. Some had to wait several years.

I used to wonder as a kid why my Japanese-American parents bought a house in the pretty shitty neighborhood of Pacoima in Los Angeles when there were a million better places to live in the city of Los Angeles. Granted, houses were damn cheap in Pacoima (our house cost $15,000 in 1959). I mean, why not Santa Monica?

As it turns out, until the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (AKA Fair Housing Act) people could discriminate on basis of race, thus restricting various minorities to certain enclaves. So, it wasn’t my parents fault that we were living in kind of impoverished town.

A friend of mine related a story to me about a neighbor trying to sell a house to a Japanese family in the upscale community of Woodside, California in the 1970’s. Apparently there was quite a backlash from the primarily white neighbors.

And like Kunilou’s wife’s family, my dad was shipped off to Manzanar during the middle of his Master’s degree program at UCLA (I know I mention this pretty often, but it still pisses me off).

There was a court case in (IIRC) Charlotte about a Chinese girl in a school segregation thing. (Recall, of course, that there weren’t that many Chinese people in North Carolina at the time, so it was very different from the same situation in, say, California.) I believe they did decide she was “colored”.

How were Koreans treated during WWII? I have a friend who was born in SK who is absolutely obsessed with the 1940s, and wishes she had been in her 20s then instead of now.

She correctly stated that most of the anti-Asian sentiment of the time was understandably directed towards the Japanese, but I contended that the average guy on the street would be inclined to treat all Asians like the Japanese, since he most likely wouldn’t be able to tell them apart. She seems to think that she would have been treated nearly as well as a white woman, but I have a tough time swallowing that.

Am I right on this one, or is she? Bragging rights are at stake here. :smiley:

My wife’s father is Chinese, and this was actually a question for him in his younger days. He lived in Chicago, but occasionally travelled to parts of the country where segregation was the rule. He never knew whether to use the “white” facilities or the “colored” facilities.


I wasn’t there but I think she’s kidding herself. There was substantial prejudice against all Asians during the early 1900’s.

The Immigration Act of 1924 was designed to keep America more or less European. According to the article:

There were “guides” during WWII that showed white people how to differentiate between Japanese and Chinese, but I’m Japanese and I can’t tell the difference, and with Koreans, even less so. I can hazard a guess, but it’s usually more about cultural cues rather than actual phenotype.

Was any of this coded in law? Was even the negro segregation well coded in law? There is a well established history of racism, that’s for sure. I am curious about what the law formally stipulated.

My mother’s parents considered my father (born of Sicilian immigrants) non-white. In grade school, some teachers were rather confounded by me, and wondered whether or not I was white. I’m 51, for reference…so I went to grade school in the 60s, in Texas.

Yes, quite a bit of the segregation was coded in law. Or at least it was in Texas.

How about Indians? I mean E. Indians. Were there any immigrants back then? For some reason a lot of us up and went to Africa, where we still remain. I only show surprise because why would you go from a hot country to a hotter country??

I haven’t heard the story, what happened?

Here’s a line directly from the Missouri state constitution of 1945.

The language was changed from the 1875 version, which required separate schools “for children of African descent.”

In 1949 Missouri criminalized marriage between whites and “Negroes” or “Asians” and in 1952 the state prohibited interracial adoptions.

I remember reading about a case out in California, IIRC, where a ‘Hindoo’ man married a white girl, and there was some kerfluffle. I believe it was eventually decided that he wasn’t ‘colored’. There were also Indian/Mexican marriages.

If she was born in Saskatchewan, I’d encourage her to read up on the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1923, which prohibited all immigration to Canada from China, and remained in effect until 1947. It wasn’t just the Japanese who were discriminated against in that era, and I have a hard time believing your average Depression-era farmer would draw much of a distinction between Korean, Japanese, and Chinese.

If you want to look at some court cases, check out Gong Lum v. Rice (1927) (Mississippi may require students of Chinese descent to attend colored schools), Ozawa v US (1922) (Japanese are not “white”) US v Bhagat Sindh Thind (1923) (Asian Indians are not “white”, even though anthropologically they are Caucasian/Aryan), In re. Najour (1909) (Arabs are “white”) In re Ellis (1910) (Arabs are “white” but not Caucasian), ex parte Sahid (1913) (Arabs are not “white”), Dow v. United States (1923) (Arabs are “white”)

In the early 1900’s my great grandfather, a policeman in Ft. Collins, CO was shot and killed by a Mexican national. I have read a number of news clippings about the event, and the racist language is not at all veiled. Interestingly, the man was eventually (on appeal) able to make a case that it was self defense, so it was not a case of “sure, he’ll get a fair trial, and THEN we’ll hang him.”

I notice you are from Perth, so perhaps you are not aware of the plight of Japanese-Americans and Japanese nationals in the USA during WWII. Due to widespread paranoia and mistrust of the Japanese population, after Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066.

Note that many of the internees were second and third generation natural born USA citizens. My dad was born in the USA and was attending UCLA for his Master’s degree when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He spent the next 3 years at Manzanar, an internship camp (realistically, a prison) in the high desert of California. Fortunately, there was very little evidence of nefarious anti-American activity by Japanese-Americans during WWII. Hell, my dad never jaywalked, let alone spied for anybody. Many Japanese-American men, in order to prove their loyalty to the USA, joined the army. Many ended up in the storied 442nd Infantry.

One of the most egregious aspects of the executive order was that there was very little notice given to the internees, and many people had to sell their possessions for pennies on the dollar. My mom’s family was pretty wealthy and lost their house, business, and automobile.

I think you meant “sign’s”.

This is obviously a typo, but for those unfamiliar they’re commonly referred to as “internment camps”. Some revisionists[sup]*[/sup] have quibbled over this - technically they were called “relocation centers”, but “internment” is by far the most common term. “Concentration camp” has been used (primarily I’ve heard it from internees), but is too problematic (due to associations with the Nazis).

Some Italians and Germans were also sent to camps, but it was nothing like large scale round-up of Japanese on the West Coast.
*Nobody but the insane deny their existence, but some seek to minimize the effect on the people imprisoned.
Some of the cases cited by Captain Amazing have to do with citizenship for immigrants (the 1790 law, in place until 1952 with few exceptions, allowed only “whites” to become naturalized). There were also various laws aimed at restricting immigration. The Chinese Exclusion Act (1882) was the first directed at a specific country (i.e. race). Later, the Immigration Act (1924) placed quotas for many countries, including parts of Europe, but it made it nearly impossible for East Asians to immigrate.