section links below:
- The Seattle Chapter
- 2009 Board
- JACL Today
- History of the JACL
The Seattle Chapter JACL has been unafraid to tackle difficult
and, often, controversial issues related to the wartime experience
of our community and other civil rights issues. The exceptional
pioneers who sustained our organization during one of the most
difficult periods in US history laid a strong foundation for
the work of future generations of Japanese Americans who believe
strongly in the principles of justice, equality and fair play.
Rest assured, the Seattle Chapter is well prepared to carry
on the proud tradition established by our noble and courageous
As we anticipate
the challenges of the new millennium, the organization is grateful
and energized by the emergence of a bright, new corps of younger
members. Issues such as redress, education about our World War
II wartime experiences, hate crimes, US-Japan relations, cultural
activities like the Seattle Cherry Blossom and Japanese Cultural
Festival, leadership training, scholarships, and building alliances
with other communities of color will continue to be high priorities
on our agenda for decades to come. Though many of the civil
rights issues of the 20th century remain and, in some cases,
have become even more intractable, the Chapter will move forward
with confidence and a renewed sense of commitment to ensure
equality and justice for all.
Corresponding Secretary, May
Secretary, Doug Honma
Board Delegate, Arlene Oki
While the JACL's founding mission was focused on protecting
the civil rights of Americans of Japanese ancestry, today we
are committed to protecting the rights of all segments of the
Asian Pacific American community.
was first prompted in the early 1980s when a young Chinese American
man was murdered in Detroit when he was mistakenly identified
as Japanese. The murder of Vincent Chin brought about the recognition
by the JACL of the need for vigilance to maintain the rights
of all Asian Americans, for it became apparent that those who
would do harm to Japanese Americans did not discriminate in
their hatred and bigotry against Asians or other peoples of
the past three decades, as the Asian American population has
continued to grow, and as other Asian ethnic groups emerged
in the broader Asian American community, the JACL recognized
the need and responded to the challenge of insuring the rights
and well-being of all Asian Americans. Today, with out-marriage
changing the face of the Japanese American community, the JACL
faces additional challenges in looking to its future and to
the future of the Japanese American community.
that future might be, as the nation's oldest Asian American
civil and human rights organization, the JACL will continue
to dedicate itself to preserving the rights and well-being of
all Asian Americans and others who fall victim to social injustice
in the United States.
History of the JACL
The Japanese American Citizens League, the nation's oldest and
largest Asian American civil rights organization, was founded
in 1929 to address issues of discrimination targeted specifically
at persons of Japanese ancestry residing in the United States.
In California, where the majority of Japanese Americans resided,
there were over one hundred statutes in California that proscribed
the limits of rights of anyone of Japanese ancestry. Organizations
like the Grange Association and Sons of the Golden West exerted
powerful influence on the state legislature and on Congress
to limit participation and rights of Japanese Americans, and
groups like the Japanese Exclusion League were established with
the sole purpose of ridding the state of its Japanese population,
even those who were American citizens by birth.
this hostile environment, the JACL was established to fight
for the civil rights primarily of Japanese Americans but also
for the benefit of Chinese Americans and other peoples of color.
Although still a small, California-based organization, the JACL
was one of only a few organizations in the 1920s and 1930s willing
to challenge the racist policies of the state and federal governments.
With limited resources and virtually no experience in state
or federal politics, the JACL nevertheless took it upon itself
to set the course for civil rights for persons of Asian ancestry
in the West Coast region of the United States as well as at
the federal level by combating congressional legislation aimed
at excluding the rights of Japanese Americans and Asian Americans.
test of the JACL came some ten years after its inception when
the nation of Japan attacked the US Naval base at Pearl Harbor
and launched America into World War II. Within hours after the
attack at Pearl Harbor, the FBI swooped down on all Japanese
communities in the West Coast states and arrested any elders
identified as leaders, suddenly thrusting a young JACL leadership
in the difficult position of having to confront a hostile US
Government whose intent was to exclude and imprison the entire
Japanese American population.
the war, the JACL continued its efforts to insure some measure
of protection and comfort for Japanese Americans imprisoned
in government detention camps. The organization argued for and
won the right of Japanese Americans to serve in the US Military,
resulting in the creation of a segregated unit, the famous 442nd
Regimental Combat Team, which joined with the 100th Battalion
from Hawaii and became the most highly decorated unit in US
Military history despite having only served in combat for a
little over a year in the European theater of the war.
the war, the JACL began a long series of legislative efforts
to win back the rights of Japanese Americans. In 1946, the JACL
embarked on a hard-fought campaign to repeal California's Alien
Land Law, which, enacted in the early years of the century,
prohibited all Japanese aliens (i.e., immigrants) from purchasing
and owning land in the state, one of the most discriminatory
statues enacted in California against Japanese Americans. In
1948, the JACL helped found the Leadership Conference on Civil
Rights and, in the same year, succeeded in gaining passage of
the Evacuation Claims Act, the first of a series of efforts
to rectify the losses and injustices of the WWII internment.
In 1949, the JACL initiated efforts in the US Congress to gain
the right of Japanese immigrants to become naturalized citizens
of the US, a right denied to them for over fifty years. The
1951 Walter-McCarren Act, which was essentially a JACL-initiated
bill, included language that opened a back door that gave women
in this country a foothold on broadening their rights of participation
in the democratic process. Among its major accomplishments,
the organization committed its lobbying efforts for passage
of the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act, the culmination of the
great civil rights movement of the 1960s.
at its biennial convention in Chicago, the JACL passed a resolution
calling for recognition of, and reparations for, the injustice
of the WWII internment of Japanese Americans. It formalized
the debate as a priority within the organization despite the
Japanese American community's tepid response to the issue. In
1978, the JACL launched a major campaign to seek redress from
the US Government for the imprisonment and loss of freedom of
Japanese Americans during WWII. The JACL was determined to seek
some measure of legislative guarantee that the violation of
constitutional rights visited upon Japanese Americans would
never again be brought upon any group in the United States.
two years of launching the campaign, a JACL-sponsored legislation
to create a federal investigative commission was approved by
the Congress and signed by President Carter. The Commission
on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians was established
to investigate the circumstances surrounding the WWII internment
and provide its findings to the Congress and the president.
The commission's report in 1982 found that the government's
actions were unjustified and unconstitutional, and based on
this substantiation of its claims and on the commission's recommendations
for monetary redress, the JACL sought legislation calling for
monetary redress and a presidential apology.
campaign culminated with the signing of the Civil Liberties
Act of 1988, which provided monetary compensation and a formal
apology to the victims of the WWII internment. After ten years
of campaigning in Washington DC and across the country through
its chapters' grassroots efforts, the JACL successfully brought
to a close a final episode in one of the darkest chapters in
the constitutional history of the nation.