The Unlikely Story Behind Japanese Americans' Campaign For ReparationsHistorians in the News
tags: books, reparations, internment, World War 2, Japanese Americans
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 marked the United States' official entrance into World War II. It also pushed the U.S. government's legacy of anti-Asian sentiment to its most extreme.
Just two months later, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order that authorized incarcerating people of Japanese descent, based on the widespread suspicion that they were acting as espionage agents. The belief was baseless, but that didn't stop the War Relocation Authority from rounding up more than 100,000 people—two-thirds of whom were U.S. citizens—and detaining them in crowded barracks surrounded by barbed-wire fences.
John Tateishi, now 81, was incarcerated at the Manzanar internment camp in California from ages 3 to 6. After the war ended, Tateishi and his family returned to Los Angeles, where Tateishi says they tried their best to assimilate. Decades later in 1975, he and his wife Carol became founding members of the local Japanese American Citizens' League (JACL). As the civil rights organization's National Redress Director, Tateishi helped lead the eventually successful fight for reparations.
But that fight came with significant resistance—not just from the American public at large, but from the Japanese American community itself, as Tateishi writes in his new book, Redress: The Inside Story of the Successful Campaign for Japanese American Reparations.
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