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Curator Statement

Historical Overview
Touring Exhibit

Classroom Activity 1

Classroom Activity 2


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Historical Overview
Adapted from the JACL Curriculum and Resource Guide
The Early Period
Immigration and Anti-Japanese Activities
Campaign for Redress
Assembly Center and Camp Statistics

"Historically, relations between Japan and the United States have influenced the manner in which the Japanese in the U.S. were treated. This chronology, therefore, includes events which mark that relationship."

1854 On orders from President Millard Fillmore, Commodore Matthew Perry sails into Edo (Tokyo) Bay for the second time to persuade Japan to open their doors to trade after 200 years of isolation. Japans signs the Treaty of Kanagawa on March 31, opening a few ports to Americans. Other treaties with European nations follow.
1858 Treaty of Ansei signed. Opens up new ports in Japan and sets pattern of U.S.-Japan relations for the next fifty years.
1869 First group of Japanese immigrants arrive in U.S. and establish the Wakamarsu Colony at Gold Hill in California.
1882 Congress passes Chinese Exclusion Act, which bars further Chinese immigration and prohibits Chinese from citizenship. Enforced from 1882 to 1892, it creates labor demand, seen as major reason for increased immigration of Japanese to the Pacific Coast.
1898 Hawaii annexed by the U.S., enabling about 60,000 Japanese residing in Hawaii to proceed to mainland U.S. without passports.
The vast majority of Japanese emigrated to the U.S. between 1900 and 1920.
1900 Under pressure from U.S., the Japanese government stops issuing passports to laborers desiring to enter U.S. Since territory of Hawaii is not mentioned in agreement, Japanese continue to immigrate there.
1904 Japan declares war on Russia. Russia badly defeated. American sentiment, initially with Japan, soon turns antagonistic.
  • Japan and Russia sign Portsmouth Treaty, with U.S. as mediator. Provisions of treaty cause outbursts of anti-government and anti-American feelings in Japan. Renewed anti-Japanese feelings swell in U.S.
  • San Francisco Chronicle runs anti-Japanese series for a year and a half. California urges U.S. Congress to limit Japanese immigration.
  • Sixty-seven organizations meet in San Francisco to form Asiatic Exclusion League of San Francisco.
  • 1906 San Francisco School Board orders segregation of 93 Japanese American students.
  • On orders from President Theodore Roosevelt, S.F. School Board rescinds segregation order; but strong feelings against Japanese persist. Anti-Japanese riots break out in San Francisco in May, again in October, much to the embarrassment of the U.S. government.
  • Congress passes immigrations bill forbidding Japanese laborers from entering the U.S. via Hawaii, Mexico, or Canada.
  • 1908 U.S. Secretary of State Elihu Root and Foreign Minister Hayashi of Japan formalize Gentlemen's Agreement whereby Japan agrees not to issue visas to laborers wanting to emigrate to the U.S.
    1913 Alien Land Law (Webb-Haney Act) passed, denying "all aliens ineligible for citizenship" (which includes all Asians except for Filipinos, who are "subjects" of the U.S.) the right to own land in California. Leasing land limited to 3 years. Similar laws eventually adopted in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, and Minnesota.
    1915 The Hearst newspapers, historically hostile to Japanese, intensifies its "Yellow Peril" campaign with sensational headlines and editorials, fueling anti-Japanese feelings.
    1918 California's Alien Land Law amended to close all loopholes. Forbids Issei to buy land in the names of their Nisei children (see date 1913).
    1920 Under pressure from U.S., Japan ceases issuing passports to so-called picture brides, who had been emigrating to the U.S. from about 1910 to join husbands they had married by proxy. Becomes effective in 1921.
  • Supreme Court rules in Takeo Ozawa v. U.S. that naturalization is limited to "free white persons and aliens of African nativity," thus legalizing pervious practice of excluding Asians from citizenship.
  • Congress passes Cable Act, which provides that "any woman marrying an alien ineligible for citizenship shall cease to be an American citizen." In practice, this meant that anyone marrying an Issei would automatically lose citizenship. In marriages terminated by death or divorce, a Caucasian woman could regain citizenship, whereas a Nisei woman could not. Act amended in 1931, allowing Nisei women married to Issei men to retain citizenship. (Act repealed 1936).
  • 1924 Congress passes Immigration Exclusion Act, barring all immigration from Japan. Protests held throughout Japan. July 1 declared "Day of Humiliation."
  • Japan invades China by end of the year, capturing Nanking, capital of Nationalist China.
  • U.S. breaks off commercial relations with Japan.
  • Britain and France declare war on Germany, signaling beginning of World War II.
  • 1941
  • November 7: Report prepared by presidential investigator Curtis Munson and submitted to the President, State Department and Secretary of War certifies that Japanese Americans possess an extraordinary degree of loyalty to U.S. Corroborates years of surveillance by FBI and Naval Intelligence.
  • December 7: Japan bombs U.S. fleet and military base at Pearl Harbor.
  • December 8: U.S. Congress declares war on Japan. Within hours, FBI arrests 736 Japanese resident aliens as security risks in Hawaii and mainland.
  • December 11: U.S. declares war on Germany and Italy. Over 2000 Issei in Hawaii and mainland - teachers, priests, officers of organizations, newspaper editors and other prominent people in Japanese community - imprisoned by the U.S. government.
  • 1942 Confusion and rumors of subversion abound. U.S. and allied forces suffer catastrophic defeats for four months, heightening the threat of a West Coast invasion.
  • January 5: War Department classifies Japanese American men of draft age 4-C "enemy aliens." Status not changed until June 16, 1946.
  • January 26: Ringle Report and Naval Intelligence secret reports argue against mass internment. Urges encouragement of Japanese American loyalty.
  • February 19: President Roosevelt sign Executive Order 9066, giving Secretary of War authority to designate "military areas from which to exclude certain people. Sets into motion eventual incarceration of 120,000 Japanese, aliens and citizens.
  • February 21: Tolan Committee begins hearings in San Francisco on question of Japanese Americans, even as decision to incarcerate them has already been made. California Atty. General Earl Warren testifies that the very absence of fifth column activities by Japanese is "confirmation that such actions were planned for the future."
  • March 2: Public Proclamation #1 issued by Lt. General John L. DeWitt, head of the Western Defense Command, specifies military zones 1 and 2. Zone 1 includes western halves of California, Washington and Oregon and southern third of Arizona.
  • March 24: Gen. DeWitt issues first of a series of exclusion orders which would force complete removal of entire Japanese population from Military Zone 1.
  • March 28: Attorney Minoru Yasui turns himself in at Portland, Oregon police station to test discriminatory curfew regulations.
  • April 2: California fires all Japanese Americans in state civil service based on ethnic affiliation.
  • May 5: University student Gordon Hirabayashi (Seattle) refuses to follow curfew and exclusion orders in order to test constitutionality of military orders.
  • May: Fred Korematsu arrested in Oakland, California for violating orders to report for detention.
  • June 4-7: Battle of Midway mangles Japanese navy, a turning point in the war in the Pacific.
  • June 5: Incarceration of persons of Japanese ancestry from designated military zones now complete.
  • October 30: U.S. Army completes transfer of inmates from Army transit camps to ten permanent War Relocation Authority (WRA) detention camps. Formation of Japanese American combat units.
  • 1943
  • January 28: War Department announces plans to organize all-Japanese American combat unit.
  • February 8: Loyalty questionnaire administered in all ten camps to men and women over the age of seventeen. Contradictory and confusing nature of questions causes conflicts in families.
  • April: 442nd Regimental Combat Team activated.
  • April 20: 9507 Hawaiian Japanese volunteer for special combat unit.
  • July 15: Tule Lake, California camp designated as segregated center for those whose responses to "loyalty oath" prove unacceptable to authorities.
  • 1944
  • January 20: Reinstatement of draft for Japanese Americans.
  • March 1: 400 Nisei at Heart Mountain camp vote to resist draft until constitutional rights restored.
  • June 26: 63 men from Heart Mountain convicted for refusing induction. Sentenced to three years in prison. (267 from all ten camps eventually convicted for draft resistance.)
  • October 30: 100th/442nd combat team rescue Texas "lost battalion" after five days of battle. Suffer 800 casualties, including 184 killed in action to rescue 211 Texans.
  • December 17: U.S. War Department announces revocation of the West Coast exclusion order against Japanese Americans (effective on January 2, 1945, in anticipation of possible negative ruling of Supreme Court the following day).
  • December 18: Supreme Court rules detention orders are valid use of "war powers" in the Korematsu case. In Endo case, it declares WRA cannot detain loyal citizens against will, opening way for Japanese Americans to return to West Coast. Nearly 5000 remain interned at Tule Lake under "individual exclusion" law.
  • 1945
  • August 6: U.S. drops atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.
  • August 9: U.S. drops atomic bomb on Nagasaki. Total of 3 million Japanese left homeless.
  • September 2: Japan surrenders formally.
  • September 4: Western Defense Command issues Public Proclamation No. 24, revoking all West Coast exclusion orders against persons of Japanese ancestry.
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  • March 20: Tule Lake, last of ten major concentration camps, closes.
  • 1947
  • December 12: President Harry Truman grants pardon to all 267 Japanese American draft resistors.
  • 1948
  • January 19: U.S. Supreme Court invalidates California alien land law which denies gift of land by immigrant Japanese to citizen children.
  • July 12: President Truman signs "Evacuation Claims Act" which would pay less than ten cents on dollar for lost property only. Many former internees are unable to produce required documentary proof of losses.
  • 1952
  • April 17: California Supreme Court declares racially restrictive alien land laws unenforceable.
  • June 11: Walter-McCarran Immigration and Nationality Act passes in Congress over President Truman's veto. Truman considers the Act too restrictive in its quota system, which heavily favors northern European nations. However, Act allows Japanese and other Asian immigrants to become naturalized citizens for the first time. 1959 August 29: Hawaii becomes fiftieth state. Daniel Inouye first Japanese American elected to the House of Representatives.
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    1976 President Gerald Ford signs proclamation entitled "An American Promise" rescinding Executive Order 9066.
  • July: JACL National Council passes resolution to seek $25,000 for each individual interned. JACL National Redress Committee formed to launch national redress campaign.
  • 1980
  • July 31: President Jimmy Carter signs bill to create Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) to determine whether any wrongs had been committed in the internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans, and also of 1,000 Aleutian and Pribilof Islanders. CWRIC is to recommend remedies.
  • 1981 CWRIC holds hearings in nine major cities across the nation recording testimonies from over 750 witnesses.
  • June: CWRIC issues their report, Personal Justice Denied, concluding that the exclusion, expulsion and incarceration of Japanese Americans was not justified by "military necessity"; and that the decision was based on "race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership." Recommend that Congress pass legislation which recognizes "grave injustice" done, offers the nation's apologies and compensation of $20,000 to each of the estimated 60,000 surviving persons.
  • November 11: Federal court in San Francisco vacates Fred Korematsu's original conviction and rules that the government was not justified in issuing internment orders.
  • 1984 California State Legislature proclaims February 19, 1984 a February 19 of each year to be recognized as "A Day of Remembrance" of the concentration episode to encourage Californians to reflect upon their shared responsibility to uphold the Constitution and the rights of all individuals at all times.
  • October: Federal District Court in Portland (OR) invalidates Minoru Yasui's conviction for violating a curfew order during World War II.
  • 1986 Federal District Court in Seattle (WA) invalidates Gordon Hirabayashi's 1942 conviction for violating wartime internment orders.
  • September 17: Congress passes Civil Liberties Act.
  • October 1: Exhibit at Smithsonian Institution, "A More Perfect Union," commemorates bicentennial of U.S. Constitution by featuring internment of Japanese Americans and contributions of 100th/442nd combat units and MIS (Military Intelligence Service detachment) during World War II.
  • 1988
  • April 20: Senate passage of Civil Liberties Act of 1988.
  • August 10: President Ronald Reagan signs Civil Liberties Act of 1988, requiring payment of $20,000 and apology to estimated 60,000 survivors of internment.
  • 1989
  • November 21: President George Bush signs appropriation bill, containing redress payment provision under entitlement program.
  • 1990
  • October 9: First letters of apology signed by President George Bush presented to oldest survivors of Executive Order 9066 at Department of Justice ceremony along with redress payment of $20,000.
  • 1996
  • President Clinton appoints the commissioners to the Civil Liberties Public Education Fund (CLPEF).
  • 1998
  • Fred Korematsu receives Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton.
  • 1999
  • February 5: The Office of Redress Administration officially closes its doors, having distributed redress payments to 82,220 claimants.
  • October 22: Groundbreaking for National Japanese American Memorial.
  • The 100th, 442nd, and MIS Memorial is dedicated in Los Angeles.
  • 2000
  • November 9-11: Dedication ceremonies for the NJAM held.
  • July 25: Norman Mineta is confirmed as the Secretary of Commerce. He is the first Asian American to be appointed by the President to the Cabinet.
  • 2001
  • January 24: Norman Mineta is confirmed by the Senate as the Secretary of Transportation becoming a member of President George Bush's cabinet.
  • June: Grand opening of the National Japanese American Memorial.
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    Temporary Detention Camps ("Assembly Centers")

    From: Due Process: Americans of Japanese Ancestry and the United States Constitution (San Francisco: NJAHS, Inc. 1995). All Dates are from 1942.

    Fresno, CA May 6 Oct. 30 5,344 Central San Joaquin Valley Amador County Gila River, Jerome
    Marysville, CA May 8 June 29 2,465 Placer & Sacramento Counties Tule Lake
    Mayer, AZ May 7 June 2 251 Southern Arizona Poston
    Merced, CA May 6 Sept. 15 4,669 N. Calif. Coast; W. Sacramento Valley Granada
    Pinedale, CA May 7 July 23 4,823 Sacramento & El Dorado Counties; Hood River & Wasco Counties, Oregon; King, Kitsap & Pierce Counties, Washington Poston, Tule Lakee
    Pomona, CA May 7 Aug. 24 5,514 Los Angeles, San Francisco & Santa Clara Counties Heart Mountain
    Portland, OR May 2 Sept. 10 4,290 Northwest Oregon; Central Washington Heart Mountain, Minidoka, Tule Lake
    Puyallup, WA Apr. 28 Sept. 12 7,628 Pierce County & Seattle, Washington; Alaska Minidoka, Tule Lake
    Sacramento,CA May 6 June 26 4,770 Sacramento & Sacramento River Tule Lake
    Salinas, CA Apr. 27 July 4 3,608 Monterey Bay Area Poston, Tule Lake
    Santa Anita, CA Mar. 27 Oct. 27 19,348 Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco & Santa Clara Counties Topaz, Poston, Gila River, Heart Mountain, Jerome, Rohwer, Granada, Manzanar
    Stockton, CA May 10 Oct. 17 4,390 San Joaquin Valley Gila River, Rohwer
    Tanforan, CA Apr. 20 Oct. 13 8,033 San Francisco Bay Area Topaz
    Tulare, CA Apr. 20 Sept.4 5,061 S. California Coast; Los Angeles County Gila River
    Turlock, CA Apr. 30 Aug. 12 3,699 San Francisco Bay Area Gila River
    Tulare, CA Apr. 20 Sept.4 5,061 Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta; Los Angeles Gila River


    Permanent Detention Camps ("Relocation Centers")

    From: Due Process: Americans of Japanese Ancestry and the United States Constitution (San Francisco: NJAHS, Inc. 1995)

    Gila River, AZ 7/20/42 11/10/45 16,655 Sacramento River Delta, Fresno County, Southern Calif. Coast Los Angeles
    Granada, CO 8/27/42 10/15/45 10,295 Northern Calif. Coast, W. Sacramento Valley, No. San Joaquin Valley, Los Angeles
    Heart Mountain, WY 8/12/42 11/10/45 14,025 Santa Clara Valley, Los Angeles, Central Washington
    Jerome, AR 10/6/42 6/30/44 10,241 Central San Joaquin Valley, San Pedro Bay Area
    Manzanar, CA 3/21/42 11/21/45 11,062 Los Angeles, San Fernando, San Joaquin County, Bainbridge Island (WA)
    Minidoka, ID 8/10/42 10/28/45 13,078 Seattle, Pierce County (WA), Portland, Northwestern Oregon
    Poston, AZ 5/8/42 11/28/45 19,534 Southern California, Monterey Bay Area, Sacramento County, Southern Arizona
    Rohwer, AR 9/18/42 11/30/45 11,928 Los Angeles, Stockton
    Topaz, UT 9/11/42 10/31/45 11,212 San Francisco Bay Area
    Tule Lake, CA 5/27/42 3/20/46 29,490 Initially: Sacramento, East Sacramento Valley, Southwestern Oregon, Western Washington. After segregation: from all West Coast states and Hawaii


    Smithsonian - National Museum of American History - Behring Center