Press/Journalists

Press Release
July 17, 2013

The National Archives Commemorates the 25th Anniversary of the Civil Liberties Act

Press Opportunity to be held on July 25

More Information

Washington, DC…The National Archives commemorates the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Liberties Act with a special document display of the original Civil Liberties Act of 1988 (Public Law 100-383) and Executive Order 9066. The documents are on display through August 19, 2013, in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives Building. Located on Constitution Avenue at 9th Street, NW, museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily. Admission is free.

Media Availability

On Thursday, July 25, 2013, from 6 p.m. until 6:45 p.m., the National Archives and the Japanese American Citizens League will hold a media briefing to highlight the stories of individuals who were imprisoned in the camps and of decorated World War II Japanese American veterans. Press should use the Special Events entrance on Constitution and 7th Streets, NW. RSVP required; contact public.affairs@nara.gov.

Background

On February 19, 1942, 10 weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which permitted military commanders to “prescribe military areas . . . from which any or all persons may be excluded.” While the order did not mention any group by name, it profoundly affected the lives of Japanese Americans. In March and April, Gen. John L. DeWitt issued a series of “Exclusion Orders” directed at “all persons of Japanese ancestry” in the Western Defense Command. These orders led to the forced evacuation and incarceration of 120,000 Japanese American permanent residents and Japanese American citizens at 10 major camps and dozens of smaller sites. Held behind barbed wire and watched by armed guards, many Japanese Americans lost their homes and possessions. Congress passed laws enforcing the order with almost no debate, and the Supreme Court affirmed these actions.

Forty-six years later, President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. The law, which was preceded by a detailed historical study by a Congressional commission, judged the incarceration “a grave injustice” that was “motivated largely by racial prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.” It offered an apology and $20,000 in restitution to each survivor.

RELATED VIDEO:  “Democracy Starts Here”
This 11-minute National Archives film highlights personal stories that reveal how the records of the National Archives make a difference in the lives of real people. The film features Cherry Tsutsumida, Civil Rights Activist and Director of the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation, who was incarcerated as a child with her family and later fought for justice for Japanese Americans: http://videocast.nih.gov/sla/NARA/dsh/broadband.html

Online Resources

IMAGES of Japanese American Life Before and During Internment
The National Archives holds thousands of images taken by professional photographers, including Dorothea Lange, who were commissioned by the Ware Relocation Authority to document the daily life and treatment of Japanese Americans during World War II. The online image gallery is at Japanese Americans images [www.archives.gov/research/japanese-americans].

DOCUMENTS of Japanese American Internment
The National Archives holds hundreds of thousands of documents relating to the incarceration, including the personal records of those detained and documentation of camp administration, including:

  • War Relocation Authority (WRA) records that contain personal descriptive information on all evacuees sent to one of the 10 relocation centers. See WRA

  • WWII Alien Enemy Detention and Internment Case Files – These Department of Justice case files document administrative proceedings by which alien enemies considered dangerous to the internal security of the U.S. were released, paroled, or interned. There is an alphabetical index searchable online. See Detention and Internment

  • Compensation and Redress Case Files from the Japanese American Evacuation Claims Act of July 2, 1948, contain approximately 26,550 claims for compensation for loss of property from Japanese American citizens. Office of the Redress Administration files for restitution payments include claims from more than 82,219 Japanese Americans. See Compensation and Redress

  • Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians records cover 20 days of hearings and testimonies from more than 750 witnesses between July and December 1981, from former evacuees. Descriptions of the records and the entire Commission report, Personal Justice Denied, are online at Public Hearings and Testimonies

  • Office of the Provost Marshal General records include cases of individuals' release from relocation centers, information about Japanese-American men eligible for military service, and personal data cards. See Military Records

  • Western Defense Command records hold assembly center records, with folders on individual families. See Western Defense Command

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For press information, contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at (202) 357-5300.

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