After the war ended, President Harry Truman signed the Japanese American Evacuation Claims Act of 1948, which allowed those incarcerated to file claims for damages and loss of property because of incarceration. This act, however, was ineffective due to the requirements of documented proof. There were approximately $148 million dollars worth of claims, but only $37 million dollars were allocated.
However, in the wake of the civil rights movement, the Japanese American community began seeking reparations for their suffering. At the 1970 Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) biennial convention, Edison Uno led the call to ask for a resolution for reparations. The first Day of Remembrance in November 1978 in Seattle that was organized by Frank Abe became a pivotal moment in the redress movement, mobilizing the community. In 1979, Senator Daniel Inouye called for a commission to study the incarceration. The Commission on Wartime Relocation and Incarceration of Civilians was signed into law in 1980. They discovered that incarceration was the result of “racial prejudice, wartime hysteria, and a failure of political leadership1.”
A 1982 congressional report called Personal Justice Denied stated that the incarceration was due to “race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership.” This congressional study found that the exclusion and forced imprisonment of Japanese Americans by the US government was based on the false premise of military necessity. There was no documented evidence of Japanese American espionage or sabotage during the war.
Through the unrelenting efforts of many within and outside of the Nikkei community, the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 was formalized. President Reagan acknowledged the ethically unjust and unconstitutional nature of the Japanese American incarceration period during World War II. The Civil Liberties Act was a major accomplishment, however the struggle for equality and fair representation continues to this day. Minidoka serves as a testament to the enduring spirit of those who were incarcerated here and stands as a place for the discussion of civil liberties and the promotion of equality and compassion for all.
1Chiang. Nature Behind Barbed Wire. 60, 65.
Last updated: September 3, 2019