Module 5. Our Story: Asian Americans


As the U.S. propelled into the new century, so did their involvement in global affairs. We begin at the turn of the century wherein many industrialized countries were participating in “new imperialism,” efforts of colonization and imperialism in non-White countries. The U.S. was involved in armed conflicts in the western hemisphere like the Spanish-American War which ended in 1898 with U.S. control over Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. Freedom fighters led by Filipino nationalist Emilio Aguinaldo rejected U.S. sovereignty having fought side by side their American allies against the Spanish. This rejection prolonged the war, now fought between the U.S. and Filipinos until 1902.

Colonization of the Philippines was characterized by President McKinley and other lawmakers as a boon to Filipinos who were believed to be too uncivilized and savage for self-rule. It was these same principles that continued to prevail foreign policy throughout most of the first half of the 20th century.




To appreciate the perspective of the colonized peoples of the Philippines.


Read Aguinaldo’s Case against the United States. Answer the following questions:

  1. What is Aguinaldo’s goal in this document? Is he clear in his message?
  2. What reasons does Aguinaldo argue for Philippine self-governance?


World wars during the 20th century brought Americans together with an abundance of national pride and duty to the country. At times, war also evoked feelings of anxiety and xenophobia to the nations involved in the conflict. World War II is one of those times.

Just before the winter of 1941, there were about 125,000 people of Japanese descent living in America, most of them in west coast regions. Pearl Harbor was a U.S. naval station in Hawaii that was the victim of a surprise attack by the Japanese on December 7, 1941. This attack resulted in mass American casualties and was too close to the mainland for officials. As a result, Americans stepped up their involvement in the war, and in February of 1942, President Roosevelt issued the Executive Order 9066. This order authorized the militarized internment of all “persons of Japanese ancestry” residing in the western regions of the U.S. The justification was that Americans suspected that anyone of Japanese ancestry could still have loyalties to their ethnic homelands and would practice espionage. There was little to no evidence to support this concept, nevertheless, many supported this order and about 110,000 Japanese, many of them citizens and American born, many of them children, were put into internment camps.


Japanese American Owned Grocery Store Oakland California March 1942
“Japanese American Owned Grocery Store Oakland California March 1942” by Wikimedia is in the Public Domain, CC0

Forced internment caused almost $2 billion in property loss and even more in income loss for those interned. Internment lasted until the end of the war, and some even remained in the camps post-war because they no longer had homes to return to, for they were repossessed by authorities. It was not until the 1980s when the U.S. government paid restitution to the families that were affected in the amount of $20,000 per Japanese American families that were interned.




To realize the perspective of a young Japanese woman during the internment process.


Read Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga on Japanese Internment. Answer the following questions:

  1. Define Japanese internment.
  2. Describe Herzig-Yoshinaga’s journey to the camp. What is her tone?
  3. How would you describe her understanding of internment?


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Our Lives: An Ethnic Studies Primer Copyright © 2022 by Vera Guerrero Kennedy and Rowena Bermio is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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