Asiatic Exclusion League

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Asiatic Exclusion League
Predecessor Japanese and Korean Exclusion League (1905–1907)
Formation May 14, 1905; 111 years ago (1905-05-14)
1907 (Canada)
Founder Patrick Henry McCarthy, Andrew Furuseth, Walter McCarthy et al.
Purpose Advocate for the prevention of immigration of people of Asian origin to the United States and Canada

The Asiatic Exclusion League, often abbreviated AEL, was an organization formed in the early twentieth century in the United States and Canada that aimed to prevent immigration of people of Asian origin.

United States[edit]

On Sunday, May 7, 1905, a mass meeting was held to launch the Japanese and Korean Exclusion League. May 14, 1905 in San Francisco, California the Japanese and Korean Exclusion League was officially formed created by 67 labor unions. Among those attending the first meeting were labor leaders and European immigrants Patrick Henry McCarthy of the Building Trades Council of San Francisco and Andrew Furuseth and Walter McCarthy of the Sailor's Union. Following the first meeting the San Francisco Chronicle published a picture of dark-skinned foreign-featured laborers, who collected the convention saying: “Some present owned their own little homes; while a majority know what it is to sit with the good wife of an evening, figure on approaching rent day and make up the cash on hand to see if there is enough to carry the family over to the next day.” The San Francisco Chronicle showed resilient looking men attending the meeting and sinister cheering fulminations against the yellow men who were keeping them from having “lace curtains on the windows”![1] In December 1907, the organization was renamed the Asiatic Exclusion League to include South Asian and Chinese immigrants in their agenda. Advocating for the “white man’s country” ideal and the prohibition of Asian labor immigration, the AEL set up branches across the Pacific coast of North America, achieving transnational status and cross-border labor organization.[2]


Damage after the September 1907 riot in Vancouver

A sister organization with the same name was formed in Vancouver, British Columbia on 12 August 1907 under the auspices of the Trades and Labour Council. Its stated aim was "to keep Oriental immigrants out of British Columbia." [3] On 7 September, riots erupted in Vancouver when League members besieged Chinatown after listening to inflammatory racist speeches at City Hall (then on Main Street near Georgia Street). 4,000 people shouting racist slogans, by the time the riot reached City Hall, it had reached 8,000 people. The crowd marched into Chinatown, vandalizing and causing thousands of dollars' worth of damage. The mob then rampaged through Japantown, where they were confronted by residents armed with clubs and bottles with which they fought back. The organization flourished immediately following the riots, but began to dwindle by the following year.[4] The AEL resurfaced in the early 1920s, this time claiming a membership of 40,000 in the province in the period leading up to the passage of the Chinese Immigration Act of 1923, which ended virtually all Chinese immigration to Canada.[5]

Another important, albeit indirect, consequence of AEL activity was that the 1907 Vancouver riots led to the first drug law in Canada. The Minister of Labour (and future Prime Minister), William Lyon Mackenzie King, was sent to investigate the riots as well as victim claims for compensation. One claim was submitted by opium manufacturers, which sparked an investigation into the local drug scene by King. Particularly alarming to the minister was that opium consumption was apparently spreading to young white women. A federal law was soon passed “prohibiting the manufacture, sale and importation of opium for other than medicinal purposes.” [6]

Both Asiatic Exclusion Leagues were the product of an overall atmosphere of white racism against Asians that prevailed in Canada and the United States from the 1800s on, culminating in the imposition of a head tax and other immigration policies designed to exclude Asians from Canada, as well as Japanese American internment and Japanese Canadian internment during World War II.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Template:Buell, R. L. (4) (1992) The Development of the Anti- Japanese Agitation in the United States (p. 605-638) (Vol. 37). New York, NY: The Academy of Political Science.
  2. ^ Chang, Kornel (2012). American Crossroads : Pacific Connections : The Making of the U.S.-Canadian Borderlands. California: University of California Press. p. 106. ISBN 9780520951549 – via ProQuest Ebrary. 
  3. ^ Vancouver News-Advertiser, 7 September 1907.
  4. ^ Peter Ward, White Canada Forever: Popular Attitudes and Public Policy Toward Orientals in British Columbia. 3rd ed. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2002, 73.
  5. ^ Kay J. Anderson, Vancouver’s Chinatown: Racial Discourse in Canada, 1875-1980. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1995, 128.
  6. ^ Catherine Carstairs, “‘Hop Heads’ and ‘Hypes’: Drug Use, Regulation and Resistance in Canada, 1920-1961,” PhD thesis, University of Toronto, 2000, 24.

External links[edit]