On August 10, 1988, President Ronald Reagan issued a formal presidential apology and symbolic payment of financial reparations to surviving Japanese Americans who were incarcerated during World War II. Although many of the first generation Issei had already passed away and did not receive the apology, which occurred more than 40 years later, the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 was the first and only time that the US government publicly apologized for a mistake acknowledging that the exclusion, forced removal, and mass incarceration was due to a failure of political leadership, war hysteria, and racism.
JANMhonors this anniversary to acknowledge the unconstitutional, mass incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans in remote US concentration camps without due process or evidence of wrongdoing 80 years ago. While recognizing the apology,JANM is also well aware that other past mistakes by the US government against Blacks and indigenous communities deserve recognition and reparations.
To learn more about the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, explore these online educational resources from JANM:
Photo: President Reagan signs the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 on August 10, 1988. From left to right, he is flanked by Senator Matsunaga of Hawaii, Representative Mineta of California, Representative Saiki of Hawaii, Senator Wilson of California, Representative Young of Alaska, Representative Matsui of California, Representative Lowery of California, and Harry Kajihara, president of the Japanese American Citizens League. Photo courtesy of The Ronald Reagan Library and National Archives and Records Administration.
“Congressman Lewis has been clear and consistent in his message of justice from the 1960s until today. It isn’t every day that you get to meet a true humanitarian hero—we will never forget that day. He’ll continue to be an inspiration to me and our family. Rest in Peace Congressman John Lewis.”
—Jeff Koji Maloney, Mayor, Alhambra CA
On January 24, 2019, my husband Mike Maloney and I accompanied our son, Jeff Maloney, who as the Mayor of Alhambra, CA., was attending the Conference of Mayors in Washington DC. While touring the Capitol, I was assigned the task of keeping track of our grandson Koji, a very small but active 4-year-old. As we toured the spacious Rotunda, a group of very important looking people had just left a meeting and were walking through this grand room.
One gentleman quietly broke away from this group of dignitaries and began to approach Koji who had somehow wandered away from my watchful eye. I didn’t recognize this gentleman immediately but he slowly bent over and spoke very softly asking Koji his name. He then shook my grandson’s hand and as Jeff approached to introduce himself, the kind man bent down and lifted Koji up into his arms. It reminded me of something a kind and loving grandfather would do.
This gentle giant was Congressman John Lewis. He was a genuinely nice man and this incredibly sweet gesture was definitely the highlight of our trip! Congressman John Lewis will be greatly missed for his care and compassion for our country!
This story is from Janet Maloney of the Volunteer Leadership Council as told to Clement Hanami, JANM’s VP of Exhibitions and Art Director.
Holly Yasui is the youngest daughter of Minoru Yasui, the legendary Japanese American lawyer and civil rights activist. She is currently at work on a documentary film about the life of her father, titled Never Give Up! Minoru Yasui and the Fight for Justice. This Saturday at 2 p.m., JANM will be hosting the Los Angeles premiere of Part One of the documentary, which covers his life up until the end of World War II. Holly will be present for a Q&A with the audience following the screening.
Below, we present excerpts from an interview with Holly, who graciously took time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions via email. The complete interview will be published on Discover Nikkei shortly.
JANM: Your father was an extraordinary man. What was it like to grow up with him?
Holly Yasui: Though I didn’t know it at the time, it was an amazing experience to grow up with my dad, to be Min Yasui’s daughter. He was kind, loving, and patient. He taught me how to read before I started school, by reading out loud to me every night in bed before I went to sleep. He bought me books and a special illustrated encyclopedia, and when I showed interest in writing, he gave me my first typewriter and money to buy my first word processor. Though he worked almost all the time—he was a community activist, and like housework, that kind of work never ends—he was always home for dinner and he was always interested to hear from his family about our day. It never occurred to me that it was unusual that he went out to meetings and events nearly every night after dinner. For me and my sisters, that was normal—we thought everyone’s dad did that.
JANM: What inspired you to make this documentary?
HY: In 2013, JANM invited me to participate on a panel with Jay Hirabayashi and Karen Korematsu to talk about our fathers and their legacies at the museum’s National Conference in Seattle, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. I met up with Janice Tanaka, who was filming the event for JANM and who had been a classmate at film school in the 1980s. (I dropped out, but Janice made good!) We got to talking, and the idea for a film about my dad was planted in my mind.
After the conference I went to Portland to visit Peggy Nagae, who was my dad’s lead attorney in the reopening of his World War II legal test case. We discussed the conference and my dad’s 100th birthday coming up in 2016, and we hatched the idea of a Minoru Yasui Tribute Project. Peggy took on the task of getting a Presidential Medal of Freedom for my father, and I took on the making of the film. Peggy was successful in mobilizing a nationwide campaign to endorse the nomination, which resulted in a posthumous awarding of the medal by President Obama in 2015.
On my father’s 100th birthday, we screened a work-in-progress in his hometown of Hood River, Oregon. On March 28, 2017, we premiered Part One of the documentary, which covers his life up to the end of WWII. March 28 is Minoru Yasui Day in Oregon, and this past year was the 75th anniversary of the day he deliberately broke a military curfew to initiate his legal test case. I’m still working on completing the film, hopefully in 2018.
JANM: Most documentaries are made by third parties. You are about as close to the subject as you can get. Does this make the process easier or harder?
HY: I think that the best films are made by people who have some kind of personal investment or interest in the subject. Yes, I am very close to the subject of Never Give Up! and that has made the process both easier and harder. Easier because I have access to wonderful materials that our family archivist, my aunt Yuka (Dad’s youngest sister) has saved—mostly photos but also documents. Harder because I idolized my dad in life, but that’s not an effective approach to portraying a complex human being.
JANM: If your father were alive today, what would his take be on the Trump administration and its policies?
HY: I think he would be appalled by the thinly veiled racism and bigotry inherent in many current initiatives such as the Muslim ban and the wall between Mexico and the United States, as well as anti-democratic efforts like supporting charter schools, taking away Medicare from thousands of people, and putting the fox in charge of the henhouse on environmental and civil rights enforcement. I have no doubt that he would vociferously oppose any and all policies rooted in discrimination based on race, religion, and/or national origin. I remember in the 1970s and ’80s, when the Iran hostage crisis sparked xenophobia and hate crimes against Iranian students, legal residents, and persons who “looked like” Iranians, he spoke out and unequivocally condemned such attitudes and actions.
JANM: What kind of advice do you think your father would give to young activists today?
HY:Never give up! Keep on fighting, stand up and speak out! Work for the common good, help to make the world a better place in whatever way you can, according to your own convictions and passions and life experiences.
Never Give Up! Minoru Yasui and the Fight for Justice will be screened at JANM at 2 p.m. this Saturday, July 29. JANM members can also attend an exclusive pre-event meet-and-greet with Holly at 1 p.m.
Like many individuals and organizations across the nation, JANM has been stepping up its efforts to raise public awareness and provide support in the wake of recent public policy initiatives that pose potential threats to immigrant communities.
The museum’s first “Teach-In” took place on December 8, 2016. We invited three speakers to share their perspectives. JANM volunteer Mas Yamashita spoke about being incarcerated as a child during World War II in Topaz, Utah; Betty Hung of Asian Americans Advancing Justice–Los Angeles provided an overview of the political climate; and Mary Hendra of Facing History and Ourselves shared ideas for encouraging dialogue between students and teachers. What emerged was a shared understanding that teachers, school administrators, and community organizations like JANM must combine our efforts to ensure that our students feel safe.
You can watch a video of the entire presentation above. The speakers also provided downloadable handouts:
Following the Teach-In, members of JANM’s Board of Trustees, Board of Governors, and Education Department traveled to the White House to participate in “Generational Experiences of Asian Americans,” a program that examined the incarceration of Japanese-Americans during World War II as well as contemporary challenges facing the Asian and Pacific Islander American (APIA) and Muslim, Arab, Sikh, and South Asian (MASSA) communities today. Discussions of fears and obstacles evolved into coalition building, action, responsibility, and education.
JANM representatives who attended were inspired by high school and college students from around the country who are working hard to make an impact in their communities. Although fears persist, these young leaders made them feel grateful to educators who are encouraging young people to learn from the past and stand up against hatred and discrimination. A video of the event is available here.
At the end of March, JANM will be hosting a special two-day teacher workshop in conjunction with our current exhibition, Instructions to All Persons: Reflections on Executive Order 9066. Supported by a grant from The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, this workshop will bring scholars, experts, and first-person voices together in an effort to gain a better understanding of how the current political climate impacts educators and students, and to create lesson plans to facilitate self-guided student visits. This event is currently at capacity, but interested educators may be added to the waiting list at this link.
Stay tuned for more news on JANM’s ongoing educational programs. To subscribe to our quarterly Educator’s E-Newsletter, click here.
This Saturday, April 30 at 2 p.m., JANM will present a special event titled Civil Rights Today: The Legacy of Minoru Yasui. Featuring a variety of speakers as well as an excerpt from the documentary film Never Give Up! Minoru Yasui and the Fight for Justice, the event commemorates what would have been the renowned civil rights activist’s 100th birthday, as well as the 74th anniversary of his voluntary arrest in protest against Executive Order 9066. The event is currently sold out. If you were not able to get a ticket, you can still celebrate his birthday by reflecting on his life and work.
Minoru “Min” Yasui was a young Nisei attorney in Oregon during World War II when he violated the military curfew imposed upon all persons of Japanese ancestry in order to bring a test case to court. He lost that case in the US Supreme Court, but nearly 40 years later he reopened it as part of the coram nobis litigation brought by young Sansei attorneys in 1983. Yasui’s criminal conviction was overturned by the federal court in 1986, and two years later, Congress finally acknowledged the government’s mistake with the passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. Recognized posthumously by President Obama with a Presidential Medal of Freedom, Yasui was not only a key player in two different eras of struggle, but also an outspoken, deeply committed activist all his life, working tirelessly for the human and civil rights of all people.
January 30 is the birthday of the late Fred Korematsu and it is also Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and Social Justice!
Over the past few years, we have had a chance to get to know his daughter, Karen Korematsu, who has taken on the role of Co-Founder and now Executive Director of the Korematsu Institute, whose mission is to advance pan-ethnic civil and human rights through education.
Karen is joining with others to spread the word about her father’s story. As a young man, Mr. Korematsu purposely disobeyed the government’s 1942 order that excluded all people of Japanese ancestry, without due process, from the West Coast. He was arrested and eventually removed to a Japanese American concentration camp in Utah. He appealed his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, but in 1944 the Court ruled against him, declaring that the exclusion and confinement of people of Japanese descent was justified. It wasn’t until 1983 that his conviction was finally overturned. (Here is a link to his full bio.)
For teachers who are planning to commemorate Mr. Korematsu’s stand for civil liberties, we’ve put together a few links to FREE resources that we hope might be helpful to you:
We are so excited about our upcoming participation in a National Youth Summit with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and 10 other Smithsonian Affiliate organizations across the country.
On February 5, 2014 students from around the country will participate in a live webcast originating from The Old Capitol Museum in Jackson, Mississippi. The program will reflect on the 1964 youth-led effort for voting rights and education known as Freedom Summer and will include a panel of activists, experts, and scholars.
Following the webcast, JANM will have our own on-site program. Tamio Wakayama, a Nisei Japanese Canadian who joined the American Civil Rights Movement as a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), will share his experiences and the documentary photographs that he took from 1963 to 1964.
Now, here’s the great part: all youth and educators are invited to participate from their classrooms through the magic of the web! Teachers… this means you! Just take a look at this fantastic site for the program.
The Smithsonian has provided teaching resources and other tools for you and your students. You can pre-register and join in the conversation along with us and view the program streaming live from the Old Capitol Museum.
January 30 is Fred T. Korematsu’s birthday! He would have been 93 years old.
In 2010 Governor Schwarzenegger signed AB 1775, calling for all Californians to annually recognize January 30 as “Fred T. Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution.” This is the first and only “day” named for an Asian American anywhere in the nation.
This day commemorates a young man who disobeyed the government’s 1942 order that excluded all people of Japanese ancestry, without due process, from the West Coast. Korematsu was arrested and eventually removed to a Japanese American concentration camp in Utah. He appealed his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, but in 1944 the Court ruled against him, declaring that the exclusion and confinement of people of Japanese descent was justified.
[He didn’t mention any of this to his daughter, Karen. She only found out about it in high school when her classmate was assigned to read a book about a man named Fred Korematsu. She thought, “That can’t be my father!”]
In 1983 and with the efforts of a very sharp, pro bono legal team, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned his conviction. Though relieved, it concerned Korematsu that the decision Korematsu v. United States remains on the books. He continued to vigilantly fight for the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, filing two amicus briefs following 9/11.
Fred Korematsu passed away in 2005, at age 86. Karen continues her father’s legacy. She co-founded the Korematsu Institute and goes to schools to share her father’s story with young people.
This is just a brief post about Fred Korematsu. There are many ways to learn more. The Los Angeles County Office of Education‘s video from a recent student program featuring Karen Korematsu will soon be available on-line. (See Christy’s re-cap of the program here.) JANM has a high school mock trial lesson plan created by Texas teacher, Mark Hansen. On February 2, Korematsu will become the first Asian American to have his portrait included in the Struggle for Justice exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery. And the Korematsu Institute is aggregating activities taking place around the nation to celebrate Korematsu Day 2012.
We hope that you, too, will celebrate the legacy of Fred Korematsu, a man who fought for our civil rights.
I work in Visitor Services, so I open and close the galleries a few days each week. Lately, I’ve noticed that whenever I walk into X-Lab, something is always different–whether it’s the rifled-through laminated newspapers at the 1940s radio or new drawings on our “Only What You Can Carry” magnet board.
The following post-it activity is the one activity that has changed the most over time. You see–I’m all about conscious dialogue, so this activity in particular is one of my favorites. When the exhibition team put X-Lab together, they posed a question on our wall. In several weeks’ passing, the question became so hotly debated, it was as if our visitors themselves were evolving the activity. It reminds me of a some sort of crazy online comic book message board, except that it’s all about civil rights–not so much Batman vs. Superman.
Red post-its mean “NO”, yellow post-its mean “UNDECIDED”, and blue post-its mean “YES”. Our question was:
“Is it important to OBEY government rules in times of national crisis even if it means LOSS of privacy and civil rights?”
Some responses were:
YES, because… “in times of crisis, governments tend to react drastically, and I need to keep my family and I as safe as I possibly can.”
UNDECIDED, because… “in a time of emergency, you look to your government for help; however, privacy is highly important for anyone and so are a person’s rights as a human!”
NO, because… “if the rules go against the basic fundamentals of equality and freedom, then it goes against what it means to be a U.S. citizen.”
Our newest, most current exhibit, Xploration Lab, is a part-classroom, part-prototype “black box” exhibit. Visitors can participate and experiment with hands-on activities designed to engage audiences of all ages about the World War II Japanese American experience.
In laying the groundwork for X-Lab, our team of curators, education specialists, media arts producers and designers envisioned an exhibit that would uniquely grab the attention of visitors—spawning the development of several activities. Some of these activities include a vintage 1940s-era radio that you can tune to World War II broadcasts; J.A. Express, which is a video montage encapsulating several decades of Japanese American pre-War history into 180 seconds; and an “only what you can carry” chamber, which emulates the urgency facing families who were forced to pack their lives into a single suitcase in preparation for removal as President Roosevelt decreed in Executive Order 9066.
The exhibition team genuinely wanted to consider how our visitors would react to X-Lab. In order to capture these reactions, we installed a large touchscreen iMac–equipped with a webcam and a microphone. This was used to record visitor responses to our thought-provoking questions, such as:
“Imagine if the government suspected you of being disloyal, how would you respond?”