"For the Sake of the Children": The Civil Liberties Public Education Fund and the Forging of a Post-Internment, Post-Redress Japanese American Identity and History Open Access

Maeda, Takuya (2016)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/wh246s57m?locale=en


In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, granting an apology and individual reparations payments to the Japanese American victims of mass incarceration during World War II. This legislation was the culmination of a decades-long effort by the Japanese American community to rectify this injustice and was met by widespread celebration. In subsequent years, activists and scholars have noted that the legislation erased narratives within Japanese American history that did not fit neatly within the portrait of the community promoted by both Japanese Americans leaders and members of Congress: of a steadfastly patriotic, uniformly loyal, and "model minority" group who had achieved socioeconomic success and acceptance through resilience and hard work. This image was advanced in the face of evidence that indicated that there had been a much more complicated and less unified response by Japanese Americans to the incarceration. This whitewashed and one sided narrative had not been the only interpretation of Japanese American history within the community. Early redress advocates in radical and grassroots circles had sought to recover and rehabilitate Japanese American figures and groups that had offered protest and resistance in response to government oppression. Furthermore, they recognized that true rectification for this past injustice required not only a symbolic apology and reparations but a commitment to restructure coercive and exploitative relationships between the government and disenfranchised communities. This thesis focuses on an overlooked aspect of the legislation, the Civil Liberties Public Education Fund (CLPEF), which allocated $5 million to educate the American public about the incarceration. By making use of the archival material of the CLPEF, this thesis finds that the projects funded by the CLPEF diverged, by design, from the Congressional narratives. As the community continues to be transformed by growth in the percentage of foreign-born and mixed race members, and the incarceration moves further into the past, I argue that these more inclusive framings of community history and identity will be essential to the role of leadership on issues of civil liberties and racial justice that Japanese Americans envision for themselves in the post- redress period.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Asian Americans and Historiography in 2016. 1

Chapter 1: "Kodomo No Tame Ni"- For the Sake of the Children. 11

Chapter 2: Congressional Debate of the 1988 Civil Liberties Act. 52

Chapter 3: The Civil Liberties Public Education Fund. 79

Conclusion: Post-Interment, Post-Redress Japanese American Identity and History. 114

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