Recognizing August 10, the Civil Liberties Act of 1988

In observance of the anniversary of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, JANM will be closed Tuesday, August 10, 2021.

This legislation reflects the Museum’s commitment to empower history for social justice. The Civil Liberties Act was signed into law on that day by President Ronald Reagan, issuing a formal Presidential apology and symbolic payment of $20,000 of restitution to persons of Japanese ancestry (two-thirds were US citizens) forcibly removed from the West Coast. 

The World War II incarceration of 120,000 people at remote concentration camps by the U.S. government was without due process, or evidence of wrongdoing. For more than a century, Asians were considered “outsiders” in the U.S. The Civil Liberties Act acknowledged this dark chapter of history was driven “largely by racial prejudice, wartime hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.”

To learn more about the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, here are a few resources:

This Year’s Day of Remembrance Considers the 30th Anniversary of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988

Signing of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 by President Ronald Reagan, 1988. Japanese American National Museum. Gift of Norman Y. Mineta.

On Saturday, February 17, JANM will present the 2018 Day of Remembrance in partnership with Go for Broke National Education Center, Japanese American Citizens League-Pacific Southwest District, the Manzanar Committee, Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress, Nikkei Progressives, OCA-Greater Los Angeles, and Progressive Asian Network for Action (PANA). This year’s theme is “The Civil Liberties Act of 1988: The Victory and the Unfinished Business.”

In addition to marking the 76th anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066, an act that led to the forced evacuation and mass incarceration of 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry during World War II, this year’s Day of Remembrance also commemorates the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, the legislation that provided a formal apology from the US government and monetary reparations to survivors of the incarceration. Years in the making, this landmark legislation went a long way toward providing vindication and closure for the Japanese American community. Over 82,500 survivors received the President’s apology and the token monetary compensation provided by the CLA.

Today, however, we again find ourselves living in a climate of fear and scapegoating, in which several different immigrant populations have become vulnerable to unfair targeting. At this year’s event, we hope to strengthen our collective voice as we strive to prevent a repeat of what happened to Japanese Americans 76 years ago. Featured speakers will include Alan Nishio, community activist and founding member of National Coalition for Redress/Reparations (now Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress), who will speak about the importance of the Civil Liberties Act, what it did not accomplish, and its ongoing relevance today. The DOR program will also continue its tradition of paying tribute to the Issei and Nisei generations.

Admission to this event and to the museum are both pay-what-you-wish on this day. Last year’s event drew standing-room-only crowds, so RSVPs for this year’s Day of Remembrance are strongly encouraged. For updates on the day’s program, please visit janm.org or the Facebook event page.