History of the Japanese American Citizens League

Founded in 1929, the Japanese American Citizens League is the oldest and largest Asian American civil rights organization in the United States. Through the decades, the JACL has advocated issues to benefit the progress of Japanese Americans and Asian Americans in combating prejudice and bigotry. Following is a chronology of important events and milestones in the history of the JACL and the Japanese American community.

1929: Nikkei Shimin, an organizational newspaper founded for the New Americans Citizens League, one of the founding chapters of the JACL.

1929: Japanese American groups form a national organization to foster good citizenship and civic participation, called the Japanese American Citizens League.

1930: First JACL National Convention is held on August 29 in Seattle, Washington.

1931: JACL advocates amendment of Cable Act and restores American citizenship to American women of Japanese ancestry married to Japanese nationals. Suma Sugi lobbies the bill on behalf of the JACL, which is signed into law on Girl’s Day by President Hoover.

1935: Tokutaro Slocum and the JACL help push through the Nye-Lea Bill, which provides citizenship for U.S. Army veterans of Asian ancestry is made into law.

1936: JACL Endowment Fund is established to provide a funding source for programs for Americans of Japanese Ancestry (AJA).

1941: Japanese bombing at Pearl Harbor triggers the entry of the United States into World War II.

1942: 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast are forcibly interned in 10 American concentration camps.

1942: An emergency wartime meeting of the JACL is convened in San Francisco.

1943: JACL joins with church groups and the War Relocation Authority to resettle Americans of Japanese ancestry in Eastern and Midwestern States.

1943: The volunteer, all Nisei 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team is formed on Jan. 28. It becomes the most highly decorated unit in American military history.

1943: JACL Credit Union is formed to provide loans for Japanese Americans for resettlement.

1943: JACL establishes a Midwest Office in Chicago to provide information and assistance to Japanese Americans relocating to the Midwest.

1944: JACL efforts result in a narrowly defeated Anti-Alien Land Law proposition in Colorado.

1944: JACL files an amicus legal brief in the Korematsu v. United States case before the United States Supreme Court, testing the constitutionality of the military orders calling for the removal of Japanese Americans from their West Coast homes.

1945: The California legislature budgets $200,000 to press escheat actions against land holding by Japanese based on the Alien Land Law. County governments were offered 50% of sales from escheat actions. Between 1944 and 1948 some 200 escheat actions were filed.

1945: JACL opens offices in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles to assist Japanese Americans returning to the West Coast.

1946: The California Supreme Court upholds the escheat of the Oyama property, after the Oyamas were displaced and forced into internment camps during WWII.

1946: JACL campaigns against Proposition 15 in California to incorporate the Alien Land Law into the State Constitution. The proposition was defeated 1,143,780 to 797,067.

1946: First Post War National JACL Convention is held in Denver, Colorado. Adoption of a 14-point program of rebuilding which included Issei naturalization, reparations for discriminatory treatment during the war, re-examination of the constitutionality of the evacuation, stay of deportation on hardship cases involving Japanese nationals, a call for a national conference of minorities, elimination of racial discrimination in housing and employment, challenge of the alien land laws, creation of a research clearinghouse on the evacuation, and assistance of returning Nisei veterans.

1946: President Truman honors the 442nd Regimental Combat Team on their return from the European front.

1946: JACL Anti-Discrimination Committee opens an office in Washington, D.C. to promote a legislative campaign to promote Japanese American civil rights.

1946: JACL is victorious in a campaign to defeat California alien land laws which prevented the Issei from owning property.

1947: JACL succeeds in amending the Soldier Brides Act to admit Japanese wives of U.S. Servicemen to the United States. The language of the bill, “irregardless of race,” was a major breakthrough in racial attitudes in Congress and the nation at that time.

1947: President’s Committee on Civil Rights recommends passage of evacuation claims and naturalization legislation.

1947: JACL organizes efforts which successfully repeal the Alien Land Law in the State of Utah.

1948: JACL helps found the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, forming a coalition of the major civil rights organizations in the nation.

1948: JACL files amicus brief in the Oyama case. U.S. Supreme Court reverses the California Court’s decision in favor of Fred Oyama, stating that the application of the Alien Land Law in this case deprived him of his constitutional rights.

1948: The Evacuation Claims Act is passed by Congress to allow token compensation to Japanese Americans for losses suffered due to wartime internment.

1948: JACL is successful in urging passage of legislation to allow citizenship to aliens serving in the Armed Services during World War I and II.

1948: JACL backs a bill, signed by President Harry Truman, to prevent the deportation of “treaty merchants” who lost the right to reside in the United States at the outbreak of war.

1948: JACL is joined by a number of organizations, including the NAACP, in the Takahashi case, which rules that the California Fish and Game Commission’s denial of a commercial fishing license to Japanese is unconstitutional.

1949: A JACL supported bill to provide naturalization to alien residents in the United States was passed by the Congress, but vetoed by President Truman.

1949: Oregon’s Alien Land Law is eliminated in the Namba decision by the State Supreme Court.

1950: The American Bowling Congress agrees to drop “all-white” membership clause in their bylaws.

1952: California Supreme Court finds the Alien Land Law violation of the state and Federal Constitution.

1952: Passage Walter-McCarran Immigration and Nationality Act eliminated racial barrier to immigration and citizenship. Issei become eligible for American citizenship.

1952:  In an amicus brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in Brown vs. the Board of Education, the JACL joined the ACLU, the Anti-Defamation League and other organizations in urging that segregation in state-supported educational institutions violates the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.  The legal brief was sent to the court one week before they heard oral arguments in five pooled cases attacking segregation laws in Kansas, Delaware, South Carolina, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

1953: Earl Warren names John Aiso to a Municipal Court Bench in Los Angeles. Previously, Aiso was the highest ranking Japanese American in WWII, serving as a Lieutenant Colonel.

1955: JACL advocates bill to allow Issei to become eligible for California old-age assistance.

1956: Proposition 13, launched by the JACL to remove the Alien Land Law from the statutes, passes with over 2.5 million votes and a margin of 2 to 1 margin.

1957: JACL launches a campaign to eliminate the use of the term “Jap” as a reference to persons of Japanese ancestry. A massive public education drive is carried out.

1959: Idaho’s anti-miscegenation law is repealed through JACL chapter efforts.

1959: Hawaii is admitted as the 50th state by Congress.

1960: JACL initiates the Issei History Project to document the history and contributions of the Issei to the United States.

1962: JACL establishes the Japanese American Research Project in collaboration with the University of California at Los Angeles to insure the collection and research of Japanese American history.

1962: JACL initiates campaign to remove anti-Japanese war movies from television.

1963: JACL joins the “March on Washington” with Dr. Martin Luther King to demonstrate its commitment to insuring full civil rights for all Americans.

1964: JACL initiates a campaign to repeal of anti-miscegenation laws and for the establishment of fair housing policies.

1964: JACL develops a health and medical insurance group plan for its membership.

1965:  JACL advocates for passage of an amendment to eliminate the discriminatory features of the 1952 Immigration Act.  This historic action abolishes the national origins quota providing for the annual admission of 170,000 immigrants from Asian nations, thereby equalizing quotas with Western Hemisphere nations.  

1966: JACL National Youth Program is organized for Sansei leadership development.

1967: Cultural Heritage Fellowship Program is instituted to promote the study of Japanese American students in Japan.

1969: Centennial of Japanese American immigration to the United States is celebrated. JACL mints a commemorative coin.

1969: The Wakamatsu Colony, site where the first Japanese immigrants arrived, in Colma, California, is given historical landmark status.

1969: Nisei – The Quiet Americans by Bill Hosokawa is published through JACL’s Japanese American Research Project.

1970: The JACL Pacific Southwest District co-sponsors the construction of “Little Tokyo Towers,” a building for senior citizen housing and services.

1971: JACL campaign for the repeal of Title II of the Emergency Detention Act is successful.

1972: Manzanar Relocation Center in California is given historical status.

1972: JACL sponsors “Executive Order 9066,” a photographic exhibit on the World War II exclusion and internment with the California Historical Society.

1973: JACL Pacific Northwest District sponsors senior citizen housing project in Spokane, Washington.

1974: JACL forms Whales Committee to deal with racist impact of boycott of Japanese products led by American conservation groups.

1975: JACL conducts fundraising drive on behalf of Indochinese refugees.

1975: JACL dedicates its National Headquarters Building in San Francisco, California.

1976: JACL publishes The Experience of Japanese Americans in the United States – A Teacher’s Resource Material.

1976: Nisei Aging and Retirement Conference is held in San Francisco by the JACL, through a grant through the National Institute on Mental Health.

1976: In a public White House ceremony, President Ford officially rescinds Executive Order 9066, which resulted in the mass evacuation and internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

1976: Bamboo People – The Law and Japanese Americans by Frank Chuman is published through the JACL and Japanese American Research Project.

1977: President Ford grants a pardon to Iva Toguri, who was convicted in 1949 as the mythical “Tokyo Rose.”

1978: The JACL adopts a resolution at its Salt Lake City convention calling for redress payments of $25,000 per individual and an apology by Congress acknowledging the wrong.

1979: JACL advocates for the introduction and passage of legislation to establish a federal commission to investigate the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and to make recommendations to the Congress.

1979: Minidoka Relocation Center in Idaho is declared a National Historical Site.

1979: Tule Lake Detention Center in California is named a California Historical Landmark.

1979: 50th anniversary of the founding of the National Japanese American Citizens League.

1980: East to America – A History of Japanese In America, by Dr. Robert Wilson and Bill Hosokawa is published through the JACL and the Japanese American Research Project.

1980: President Carter signs the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment Act, which established a federal commission to review the facts and circumstances surrounding the 1942 internment of Americans of Japanese Ancestry. Those appointed include former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg and former Senator Edward Brooke.

1981: Nikkei from North and South America meet in Mexico City to discuss common concerns at the PANA Conference.

1981: The Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians holds hearings in key cities in the United States and. The JACL provides assistance to witnesses in their preparation of testimony before the commission.

1982: The Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians issues its report, Personal Justice Denied, finding that the wartime internment of Americans of Japanese was unwarranted, and that the causes of the internment were race prejudice, wartime hysteria and a failure of political leadership.

1982: AB 2710 is approved in California, compensating Japanese Americans who lost their jobs with the State of California based on their ancestry during World War II. The bill, actively supported by the JACL, becomes a model for adoption by other governments at municipal and state levels.

1983: The Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians issues its report titled Personal Justice Denied. As remedies, the commission recommends an apology to Americans of Japanese ancestry, compensation for loss of liberty and the creation of an educational fund.

1983: Majority Leader Jim Wright, of the U.S. House of Representatives, along with 72 co-sponsors, introduces H.R. 4110, which seeks to implement the recommendations of the Commission of Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians.

1983: Senator Spark M. Matsunaga introduces S. 2116, a companion bill to H.R. 4110, in the Senate.

1984: JACL produces videotape to facilitate development of planning for aging and retirement in the Nisei population.

1984: Congress holds subcommittee hearings on S. 2116 and H.R. 4110.

1983: In response to writ of error coram nobis, a federal court in San Francisco vacates Fred Korematsu’s wartime conviction.

1984: California State Legislature proclaims February 19 of each year to be recognized as “A Day of Remembrance” in commemoration of the signing of Executive Order 9066.

1984: JACL holds its first offshore National Convention in Honolulu, Hawaii.

1984: JACL submits an amicus curiae brief supporting the appeal of Hohri et al. v. United States, a class action suit for constitutional violations during the wartime internment.

1985: Manzanar Relocation Center designated a National Historical Landmark

1985: Federal District Court in Portland, OR, vacates Minoru Yasui’s conviction of violating a World War II curfew order.

1985: Redress legislation reintroduced in Congress.

1986: Federal District Court in Seattle, WA, vacates Gordon Hirabayashi’s 1942 conviction for violation of wartime internment orders.

1986: JACL joins other civil rights organizations in calling for economic sanctions against South Africa in response to its apartheid policies.

1986: JACL supports restoration of independence to U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

1986: JACL approves a resolution opposing constitutional initiatives to make English the official language of the United States.

1986: JACL approves a resolution opposing forced removal of Najavos to Big Mountain.

1987: U.S. House of Representatives passes H.R. 442, the Civil Liberties Act on Sept. 17.

1988: June 21, JACL testifies before a subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of the Hate Crimes Statistics Act which is passed in 1990.

1988: Congress passes Civil Liberties Act of 1988 and on August 10, President Reagan signs the bill authorizing payment of $20,000 and apology to the estimated 60,000 former internees.

1988: JACL supports successful passage of the Civil Rights Restoration Act.

1988: JACL joins in an amicus brief in a challenge by the Americans Friends Service Committee that the Employer Sanctions Provisions of the Immigration Reform and Control Act are discriminatory and violate the First Amendment.

1989: JACL publishes and distributes Employment Practices Handbook to assist its chapters in responding to cases of employment discrimination.

1989: JACL files a motion in a Washington, D.C. federal court to intervene in the lawsuit of Jacobs v. Thomberg which seeks to enjoin the government from making redress payments.

1989: JACL recommends a number of proposed changes to redress regulations issued by the Office of Redress Administration. The ORA makes revisions to the regulations, including reducing the onerous documentation requirements to verify eligibility.

1989: President George H. Bush signs an appropriation bill on November 21 that contains redress payments as an entitlement program.

1990: JACL raises concern over the potential for acts of violence against the Arab Americans prior to the Persian Gulf War.

1990: JACL supports successful passage of Americans with Disability Act.

1990: JACL appointed to serve on the Executive Committee of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the premier civil rights coalition in the United States.

1990: JACL passes a resolution in support of Native American Treaty Rights.

1990: JACL opposes California Assembly Resolution 181 which would have required public schools to teach that there was some justification for the internment of Japanese Americans. The resolution is defeated on August 28.

1990: JACL appeals to the U.S. Commerce Department to proceed with an adjustment of the census to correct an undercount in the Asian American community.

1990: The initial letters of apology and redress checks signed by President George H. Bush are presented to oldest survivors of the internment at a Department of Justice ceremony.

1990: Honolulu chapter begins JACL’s involvement with the case of Bruce Yamashita who had been subjected to racial harassment and discriminatory treatment in Marine Corps Officer Candidate School.

1991: JACL conducts year-long education campaign to lessen potential negative backlash surrounding the 50th anniversary commemoration of Pearl Harbor.

1991: JACL publishes and distributes Walk With Pride: Taking Steps to Address Anti-Asian Violence.

1991: JACL supports successful passage of Civil Rights Act of 1991, but is unsuccessful in defeating an amendment by Senator Frank Murkowski to exclude a class action case involving Asian Pacific American cannery workers at the Wards Cove Packing Company.

1991: JACL testifies before the House Interior and Insular Affairs Subcommittee on May 21 to support legislation establishing Manzanar as a National Historic Site.

1991: JACL urges repeal of United Nations General Assembly Revolution 3379, which equates Zionism with racism.

1991: JACL testifies in support of the “Japanese American National Historic Landmark Theme Study Act,” to authorize a study to identify important sites and structures in Japanese American history during the period 1941-1946 for the purpose of their evaluation and nomination as national historic sites.

1991: JACL supports successful re-authorization of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

1991: JACL joins in a Supreme Court amicus brief with the Anti-Defamation League in support of a hate crime statute being challenged in the case of R.A.V. v. St. Paul.

1992: Lillian Kimura is elected as the first woman national president at 32nd biennial convention in Denver, CO.

1992: JACL works for introduction of Justice for Wards Cove Workers Act.

1992: Passage of the 1992 Amendments to the Civil Liberties Act, which ensures sufficient money available for all those eligible for redress.

1992: JACL approves a resolution in support of reproductive choice.

1992: President Bush signs H.R. 5572, permanently designating the month of May as Asian Pacific Heritage Month.

1992: JACL helps lead Asian Pacific American community in expansion and re-authorization of the bilingual provisions of the Voting Rights Act.

1993: JACL supports the successful passage of the Family Emergency and Medical Leave Act.

1993: JACL and the Rohwer Reunion Committee work to repair the monuments at the site of the Rohwer internment camp and to gain National Historic Landmark status for the site.

1993: JACL supports successful passage of the National Voter Registration Act.

1993: JACL rebukes Cincinnati Reds baseball owner Marge Schott for her use of racist terminology.

1993: JACL organizes nationwide protest against the negative portrayal of Asians and women in the movie “Rising Sun.”

1993: Sacramento JACL office is firebombed on October 2 by an individual later identified as Richard Campos.

1993: Spokane JACL files a federal compliant against the Spokane Democratic Party, the Democratic Party of Washington State and individuals within the party for discriminatory actions against individuals based on their ethnicity.

1993: JACL supports successful passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

1993: JACL approves a resolution in support of ending discrimination against gays and lesbians in the military and all other such employment discrimination.

1993: JACL joins other APA organization on a Supreme Court amicus brief in support of a hate crime penalty enhancement statute in Wisconsin v. Mitchell.

1994: JACL National Education Committee publishes and distributes The Japanese American Experience: A Lesson in American History, a curriculum and resource guide.

1994: Bruce Yamashita is commissioned as a captain in the Marine Reserves.

1994: JACL approves a resolution supporting equal marriage rights for all people.

1994: JACL leads successful effort in persuading Congress to pass $5 million in appropriations for redress education fund as called for by the Clinton Administration.

1994: JACL supports the Violence Against Women Act and the Hate Crimes Sentencing Enhancement Act which both pass in Congress as part of crime bill.

1994: Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee votes Justice for Wards Cove Workers Act out of committee.

1994: JACL passes resolution in support of comprehensive health care reform.

1994: The JACL’s 65th anniversary is commemorated in Los Angeles, CA.

1995: JACL supports affirmative action in university admissions.

1995: JACL opposes any legislation that changes the current immigration laws related to family reunification.

1995: JACL supports the establishment of Asian American Studies programs in universities.

1996: Manzanar Relocation Center becomes a National Historic Site.

1996: Japanese Latin Americans (JLA) file class action lawsuit demanding inclusion in Civil Liberties Act.

1997: Patsy Mink (D-HI) introduces H.R. 574, which would expedite the naturalization process for immigrants.

1997: JACL files amicus brief challenging California Proposition 209 that would eliminate affirmative action.

1997: JACL supports adopting a multiracial option on the 2000 Census.

1997: JACL supports the nomination of Chinese American Bill Lann Lee to Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Justice.

1998: Fred Korematsu receives Presidential Medal of Freedom.

1998: Japanese Latin Americans receive apology and $4.3 million redress payment from the U.S. government.

1998: Redress History Project wins JACL National Council approval.

1998: JACL files amicus brief in U.S. Dept. of Commerce v. U.S. House of Representatives over Census Bureau’s counting methodology.

1999: JACL and other civil rights organizations call for the Supreme Court to hire more minorities and women.

1999: “Go For Broke” monument erected honoring WWII Nisei soldiers.

2000: Census shows Asian Americans as the fastest growing minority in the U.S., with a 43 percent growth rate since 1990.

2000: Norman Mineta is confirmed and sworn in as the U.S. Secretary of Commerce.

2000: JACL approves a resolution to recognize and apologize to WWII resisters of conscience.

2000: Mike Honda (D-CA) wins a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

2001: JACL adopts resolution urging federal government to appoint Bill Lann Lee as the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights.

2001: JACL adopts resolution urging investigation into the arrest and incarceration of physicist Dr. Wen Ho Lee.

2001: JACL opposes nomination of John Ashcroft as U.S. Attorney General.

2001:  In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the JACL urged caution against the possible scapegoating of any group based on ethnicity, religion or national origin and urged Americans to uphold our basic beliefs in democracy.

2002: JACL sends letter to President George W. Bush protesting Department of Justice proposal to establish government detention camps for “enemy combatants.”

2002: 20th anniversary of the hate crime murder of Vincent Chin.

2002: JACL takes part in a national campaign to eliminate Abercrombie and Fitch’s offensive line of t-shirts adorned with racially insulting comments about Asian Americans.

2003: JACL joins ACLU lawsuit challenging provisions of the USA Patriot Act, claiming that it denies citizens their civil liberties.

2003: JACL joins 27 other APA organizations in an amicus brief supporting the University of Michigan affirmative action program.

2003: JACL protests the DOJ/INS special registration of predominantly Muslim men.

2004: The JACL’s 75th anniversary is celebrated at its convention in Honolulu, HI.

2004: JACL files amicus curiae with ACLU lawsuit defending same-sex marriage in Oregon.

2004: Japanese American WWII vets honored by French government on the 60th anniversary of the Liberation of France.

2004: JACL signs on to amicus brief in Donald Rumsfeld v. Jose Padilla, challenging the provisions of the Patriot Act.

2004: JACL backs the introduction of the Civil Liberties Restoration Act, which would restore the civil liberties taken away by the Patriot Act.

2005: Japantown Task Force publishes San Francisco’s Japantown, chronicling the history of Japanese Americans in the area.

2005: By action of the California legislature, former internees begin to receive graduation diplomas over 60 years after they were taken out of school and forced into internment camps during WWII.

2005: California Rep. Mike Honda becomes first Asian American Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee.

2006: Tule Lake Segregation Center and Granada/Amache Relocation Center named National Historical Landmarks.

2006: HR 1492 is passed, authorizing $38 million for the preservation of internment camps as historic sites.

2006: JACL releases new curriculum guide, The Journey from Gold Mountain: The Asian American experience.

2007: JACL issues support for a fair trial for the Jena Six, a group of African American students charged with felonies.

2007: JACL opposes Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ challenge of habeas corpus.

2007: Gold Hill-Wakamatsu Colony, the first Japanese colony in North America, is purchased and restored by Japanese American groups and the American River Conservancy.

2007: JACL renews its support for the Filipino Veterans Equity Act, which would restore full benefits to Filipino-American soldiers who served in WWII.

2007: House of Representatives passes H.R. 1592, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

2007: JACL passes resolution to support Lt. Ehren Watada, calling for a fair trial and the right to be protected from double jeopardy, after he was initially charged for refusing deployment in the Iraq War.

 

 

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