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Civil Rights Movement

The African American community’s call for equal opportunity and the end of racial segregation struck a responsive chord among many Japanese AmericansIn the course of participating in this and other social justice movements, many Sansei (third-generation Japanese Americans) and Nisei, along with other people of color realized that their history and culture were missing from the educational curricula.

The Vietnam War protests and the Third World Student Strikes of the 1960’s set the stage for Sansei, in particular, to question the official government rationale for the World War II internment.

Through Ethnic Studies courses and pilgrimages to former camp sites such as Manzanar and Tule Lake, Sansei began to realize the full scope of Constitutional violations and injustices endured by their parents and grandparents.

The process of convincing the Issei (first-generation immigrant Japanese) and Nisei to share their personal stories was often difficult, as many preferred not to speak about the shame, humiliation and indignities they had experienced even to their children.

Japanese Latin Americans

From 1942, the U.S., with the cooperation of Peru and twelve other countries in Latin America, forcibly uprooted over 2,200 Latin American citizens and residents of Japanese ancestry and incarcerated them in the U.S. internment camps.These internees were to be held as potential hostages to be exchanged for U.S. prisoners of war held by the Japanese Imperial Army. In fact, more than 800 Japanese Latin Americans (JLA) were used for this purpose.

After WW II, most of the remaining JLA were not allowed to return to their native countries, but were deported to war-devastated Japan, where they suffered tremendous hardship.


In the early 1980s, concurrent with the Commission process, the Supreme Court cases which upheld the internment and related actions were successfully challenged: Hirabayashi v. United States (1943), Yasui v. United States (1943) and Korematsu v. United States (1944).A legal team led by Sansei (third-generation Japanese American) attorneys filed the “Coram Nobis” cases, based on newly discovered government records which documented the Justice Department’s deliberate suppression of evidence in the original cases.The petitions for a “writ of error coram nobis” asserted that there were several fundamental errors made by officials of the War Department at the time of the original trial. These included: altered and destroyed evidence; and suppression of evidence by both the War Department and the Justice Department regarding the loyalty of Japanese Americans.

The petitions found that the Supreme Court decisions of the 1940s had been based on the misrepresentation of available facts and on the deliberate suppression of evidence.

The “coram nobis” victories provided official evidence of how groundless the Government’s justification of “military necessity” had been.

Incorporated into the findings of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) report, these cases proved in court what Japanese Americans had known and felt in their hearts for decades.

Mass Removal

From March 24 to November 3, 1942, the mass removal of Japanese Americans from the West Coast took place over eight months.Japanese Americans had no charges brought against them, there was no hearing; they did not know where they were going, how long they would be detained, what conditions they would face, nor what would happen to them.

Families were registered and given numbered tags to identify themselves and their belongings. They were told to bring only what they could carry. This included household and personal items they needed for daily living. Families were forced to leave their pets behind.

The sudden upheaval caused extreme hardship for many who were given as little as 48 hours notice to sell their possessions and to dispose of their property. Losses incurred during this time were estimated in the billions of dollars.