The 1917 Immigration Act
Exploring the implementation and legacy of the 1917 Immigration Act, also known as the Asiatic Barred Zone Act.
Our team created this podcast to explain the impact and legacy of the 1917 Immigration Act. Although perhaps less well-known than the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act or the 1924 Immigration Act, the 1917 act was a crucial extension of existing anti-immigrant legislation. It contributed to existing racialized discourse surrounding immigrants in the United States.
Our podcast will cover the legal and social background of the act, congressional debates that illuminate its intent and impact, and its lasting effects and contemporary relevance. We plan to highlight aspects of the act including its effects on organized labor, literacy, anti-Asian racism, and its echoes in present-day immigration discourse.
In the Fall semster of 2019, our team has continued in the vein of research begun last semester regarding the 1917 Immigration Act. Last semester, the team presented their research on the labor, literacy, and anti-Asian sentiment surrounding the 1917 Act in a 20-minute podcast. This semester, our team has developed the research further to explore additional aspects of the act.
Our podcast is divided into three short episodes, each with its own theme.
The first podcast focuses on the figure of Woodrow Wilson during the era of anti-Asian immigration, particularly his personal history in dealing with issues of race and his veto of the 1917 Immigration Act.
The second podcast focuses on the cultural depictions of Asian immigrants that were used to incite fear among white Americans of an Asian invasion and popular receptions to anti-immigration sentiments.
The third podcast looks beyond the 1917 Act to the 1924 Immigration Act, focusing particularly on its racial and judicial ramifications.
02 Image Gallery
Join the 1917 History Beyond Team as we discuss the 1917 Immigration Act in three parts: Labor, Language, and Race. And explore additional visual resources below.
Introduction to 1917 Immigration Act
Woodrow Wilson: Segregationist Who Greeted Immigrants
Tracing the Development of Anti-Immigration Rhetoric
1921 Act: Extension of 1917 Act
1917 Immigration Act
The History Beyond 1917 Act Podcast by Margaret Chirdo, Katherine Platz, Andre Wu, and Natalie Berhends is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Additional Sound Credits:
A bearded immigrant appearing before a board of inquiry
The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1902 – 1910.
The Asiatic Barred Zone, 1917
Map of the Asiatic Barred Zone, from the 1917 Congressional Record. The 1917 act extended previous legislation to create a barred zone encompassing much of east Asia and the Pacific Islands. The Philippine Islands were not included in the barred zone, because they were occupied by the United States. (Source: Cainkar, Homeland Insecurity, 75)
Our research did not appear from thin air. We pay thanks to those before us, who documented, archived, and sorted the information about the 1917 Act. You can read more of their work here.
- Green, Julie. Pure and Simple Politics: The American Federation of Labor and Political Activism, 1881-1917. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
- Lowe, Lisa. The Intimacies of Four Continents. Durham: Duke University Press, 2015.
- Oh, Young-In. Struggles over Immigrants’ Language: Literacy Tests in the United States, 1917-1966. (The New Americalns.) El Paso: LFB Scholarly Publishing, 2012.
- Tchen, John Kuo Wei, and Dylan Yeats. Yellow Peril: An Archive of Anti-Asian Fear. London and Brooklyn: Verso, 2014.
- Erika Lee. The Chinese Exclusion Example: Race, Immigration, and American Gatekeeping, 1882-1924. (Journal of American Ethnic History.) Vol. 21, No. 3 (Spring, 2002), pp. 36-62
- United States Immigration and Refugee Law, 1921–1980 (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)
- The Immigration Act of 1924 (United States House of Representatives)
- Who Was Shut Out?: Immigration Quotas, 1925–1927 (History Matters)
- Immigration Act of 1924 (Immigration to the United States)
- 1910s-1920s: Immigration, defining whiteness (NBC News)
- Race – The Power of an Illusion (PBS.org)
- 1924 Important News and Significant Events, Key Technology, Fashions and Popular Culture (The People History)
- Chinese Exclusion Act (History.com)
- Where Does Trump’s ‘Invasion’ Rhetoric Come From? (The Atlantic)
- San Francisco Chronicle from San Francisco, California (August 27, 1873)
- Anti-Chinese Legislation and Court Cases
Katherine is a senior studying History in the College of Arts and Science. She is originally from California, and loves to read and drink boba in her spare time. She is excited to learn how to use digital tools for data visualization, storytelling, and archival preservation.
Angie is currently a junior at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study. She is interested in the history of the development of New York City, particularly in regards to traditionally marginalized groups, and of how discriminatory attitudes and actions have been manifested in the spatial environment of the urban fabric. Her research has primarily focused on cultural depictions and media representations of Asian immigrants during the decades surrounding the 1917 Immigration Act and analyzes how these ideas fueled anti-Asian sentiment in 20th century America.
Sophie is currently a Sophomore at Tandon School of Engineering. She hopes to study patent or environmental law in the future. Sophie believes that the Humanities Research Lab: Immigrant Cities can practice her reading and analysing skills. Her research has focused on Woodrow Wilson: his identity as a segregationist yet vetoed the Immigration Act of 1917. Furthermore, she snowboards and practices Muay Thai Combat.