1922: U.S. v. Ozawa

Moment in History:

Takao Ozawa, born in Kanagawa, Japan applied for U.S. citizenship in 1914 after residing in the United States for 20 years. His petition to naturalize was denied, as it challenged the laws that were already in place that limited naturalization to ‘free white persons,’ ‘aliens of African nativity,’ and ‘persons of African descent,” requirements he did not meet. Ozawa appealed his case, arguing that he should qualify due to the fact that his skin was lighter than many who were already citizens. It was finally brought before the U.S. Supreme Court and denied. It was ruled that even though, despite having lighter or, “white” skin, as Ozawa claimed he did, he did not qualify as belonging to the Caucasian race, and therefore was ineligible for citizenship.

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Ozawa v. United States