Filipinos in California: 1930’s

By the 1930’s, more than 60,000 Filipinos had immigrated to America, 30,000 in California alone, many of which had worked at one time or another in fields harvesting, lettuce, artichokes, apples, plums, asparagus, strawberries, beets, cauliflower, apricots, grapes, cotton, pears, melons, beans, and peaches. Filipino newspapers such as the Philippine Mail, Ang Bantag, Little Manila Times, The Philippine Herald, Philippine Star Press, The Torch, and the Three Stars ,chronicled the hardships of the Filipinos picking in California, documenting unfair labor, harsh working conditions, and the racism they incurred: the beatings, alienation, segregation, arrests, especially the arrests associated with having white girlfriends.

Many Filipinos through the 1920’s and 1930’s that immigrated to America were bachelors. Alone, they quickly formed a brotherhood with other Filipino immigrants and established fraternal organizations. With few Filipinas in California, Filipinos sought relationship among other ethnicities, but were discouraged to associate with white women. Prior to 1948, the anti-miscegenation law in California prohibited African-Americas, Asians, and Filipinos from marrying whites. Many couples had to travel to another state to become married. But, the racism and the segregation continued. The racial tension escalated in 1930 when a vigilante mob of over 200 men killed Fermin Tober in an anti-Filipino race riot in Watsonville. Anti-Filipino riots quickly spread to other cities in California, the racism stemming from three factors: Filipino field workers were intermingling with white women; bringing down the wages for all field workers; and taking jobs away from Americans, especially Midwesterners who had lost their farms in the dust epidemic and had travelled to California in search of work on farms.

Photographs by James Earl Wood Photgraph Collection #35
Courtesy of The Bancroft Library
University of California, Berkeley

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About mbmeloy

Educator, novelist, writer, and blogger of The Snippeteer. View all posts by mbmeloy

2 responses to “Filipinos in California: 1930’s

  • Grammy Can I help cook

    Thank you for this post. I found it very interesting. We’ve come a long way. Having come from a health care background I’ve worked with many Filipino nurses, dietitians, and patients. Filipino men and women held prominent positions in our company. I enjoyed this historical post.

  • mbmeloy

    Thank you. Filipinos were the forerunners of the agricultural labor movement in California. Many do not know about their contributions. My novel that is in the works, is a story based on these men.

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