Jack London Accused of Racism after Visiting China in 1904

The experiences Jack London (1876 – 1916) had in Korea and China in 1904 led to an essay and a story that ignited a debate that he was a racist. At the time, London also took photographs during the Russo-Japanese War in Korea and Manchuria.

He wrote the The Unparalleled Invasion, which takes place in a fictional 1975, when the West decides to destroy China (for no good reason) by using biological warfare.

London’s 1904 essay, The Yellow Peril, contributed to the claim that he was a racist. Using Google, I found sites that support this theory.

The New World Encyclopedia says, “Many of Jack London’s short stories are notable for their empathetic portrayal of Mexicans (The Mexican), Asian (The Chinago), and Hawaiian (Koolau the Leper) characters. But, unlike Mark Twain, Jack London did not depart from the views that were the norm in American society in his time, and he shared common Californian concerns about Asian immigration and ‘the yellow peril’ (which he actually used as the title of an essay he wrote in 1904; on the other hand, his war correspondence from the Russo-Japanese War, as well as his unfinished novel “Cherry,” show that he greatly admired much about Japanese customs and capabilities.”

In addition, Jack London, Photographer (ISBN 978-0-8203-2967-3) by Jeanne Campbell Reesman, Sara S. Hodson and Philip Adam is a beautiful book showing that London had talent beyond writing stories such as White Fang or Call of the Wild.

On page 57, the caption says, “London had his camera confiscated in Japan and was often detained by Japanese officials when he got too close to the front lines, especially as the war spread to the Yalu River, the boundary between Korea and Manchuria.”

After seeing the pictures in Jack London, Photographer, it’s difficult to believe he was a racist. There have also been rumors that London committed suicide, but there’s no evidence to support that theory either.

If London were a racist, why did his Japanese servant Tokinosuke Sekine stay loyal to the end even after London was bankrupt and his ‘fair weather’ friends had abandoned him?

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

A1 on June 22 - 2016 Cover Image with BLurbs to promote novel

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