The Long Arc Toward Justice

"The arc of the moral universe is long,
but it bends towards justice"

- Martin Luther King Jr., 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech.

The definition of citizenship and what it entitles one to has evolved since the founding of the country. This exhibit takes a look at the Constitution's promise that, "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal."

The story of the Japanese and the Japanese-American relocation falls into a longer history of prejudice. The exhibit "History's long arc toward Justice: A history of prejudice in the United States" includes quotes and political cartoons. It can currently be seen in the Minidoka NHS temporary visitor center located at Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument.

The exhibit ties the story of Minidoka NHS to the other National Park Service units that educate people about the history of civil rights in the United States.The National Park Service is home to over 400 National Parks and many tell the story of civil rights. Click the links to learn about these sites and America's continuing evolution when it comes to Civil Rights.

"Racial prejudice boils down to the deeply
un-American message that some people
are born to fail"

- James Fellows

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1790 - States are allowed to set their own voting qualifications. (City University of New York milestones in voting history) Many states limit voting to white male property owners unless they are affiliated with certain religious groups. Asians are categorized “aliens ineligible for citizenship”.

1790 - The Alien Naturalization Law of 1790 (University of Washington) grants American citizenship to free white persons of good moral character with 2 years of residency in the US. In 1800 the residency requirement is extended to 5 years.

1810 - The requirement of being a member of a Protestant church is removed, allowing non-Protestants to vote in elections.

1814 -The first Indian removals begin. (Trail of Tears National Historic Trail). Over the next 36 years almost 1 million Native Americans are relocated to western lands in Oklahoma & Kansas.

1816 - The first wave of Irish immigration to the United States begins. In reaction to the increased population of Irish Catholic immigrants a Nativist movement forms, reaching its peak with the formation of the Know Nothing Party (PBS) in 1849.

1823 - Corfield v. Coryell: The Supreme Court rules that each state may regulate who is eligible for the privileges & immunities of American citizenship granted in the 4th Amendment. (Cornell University).

1831 - Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (Cornell University): In response to the Indian Removal Act, the Supreme Court rules that the Cherokee Nation is a "foreign state" and that the court does not have jurisdiction to hear their case. The legal battle lasts for another 5 years with the court ruling in favor of the Cherokee Tribe. However, President Andrew Jackson removes the Cherokee and other Eastern Tribes to Indian Territory.

1833 - Barron v. Baltimore (Cornell University): The Supreme Court rules that a state government is not bound by the 5th Amendment and can use eminent domain to seize property without compensating the property owner.

1837 - New York v. Miln: The Supreme Court upholds a state’s right to stop the immigration of "Paupers, vagabonds, convicts, & infectious articles".

1848 - As part of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo (National Archive), American citizenship is granted to the 80,000 Mexicans living in the territory acquired by the United States after the Mexican-American War.

1850 - The requirements of property ownership and paying of taxes are eliminated, making almost all white males eligible to vote.

1857 - Dred Scott v. Sanford: The Supreme Court rules that Dred Scott (Library of Congress) was a slave and his owners' property despite living as a Free Man in Missouri for 4 years prior to the case.

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

―Emma Lazarus’ poem, inscribed on the Statue of Liberty

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1876 US Flag


1858- 1914

1862 - President Lincoln signs The Homestead Act (Homestead National Monument) opening up the Midwest & West to settlement. The promise of 160 acres to anyone willing to improve the land attracts immigrants from all over Europe.

1862 - President Lincoln signs The Anti-Coolie Law (University of Washington) prohibiting the "Coolie Trade". The law slows the immigration of Chinese to the West Coast and allows the government to stop and punish anyone assisting a Chinese immigrant.

1866 - Ex Parte Milligan (PBS): The Supreme Court rules the federal government cannot use military tribunals while civilian courts are still in operation.

1868 - The 14th amendment (National Archive) endows African-Americans and children of “legal immigrants” with US Citizenship but excludes "Native Americans not taxed".

1870 - The 15th Amendment (National Archive) of the Constitution prohibits both federal and state governments from denying citizens the right to vote based on “race, color, or previous condition of servitude”.

1875 - Henderson v. Mayor of New York: the Supreme Court rules that states cannot make immigration laws. The creation of immigration policy becomes the power of the federal government.

1882 - The Chinese Exclusion Act suspends all immigration from China.

1889 - Florida becomes the first of 10 southern states to adopt a poll tax in an attempt to stop African-Americans & poor citizens from voting.

1890 - Mississippi adopts a literacy test (PBS) to discourage African-American voting. However, the law includes a "grandfather clause" to ensure that children of those who voted prior to 1870 would still be eligible to vote regardless of literacy.

1896 - Plessy v. Ferguson (PBS): the Supreme Court rules that the government can segregate races, if the services provided are "Separate but equal".

1898 - US v. Wong Kim Ark (University of Cornell): the Supreme Court rules that all persons born in the United States are American citizens.

1900 - The Organic Act of 1900 ( grants US citizenship to every person born in Hawaii, including people of Chinese & Japanese ancestry.

1906 - The Naturalization Act of 1906 creates the Bureau of Immigration & Naturalization. (Department of Homeland Security)

1907 - The Expatriation Act revokes the American citizenship of women who marry foreigners. The majority of this legislation is repealed in 1922. (National Archive booklet entitled, "When saying 'I do' meant giving up your US Citizenship").

1907 - The United States & Japan sign a "Gentlemen's Agreement",limiting Japanese immigration by issuing passports to only those already in the US and their family. The family exception allows for the immigration of thousands of “picture brides”.
1913 - The California Alien Land Law ( becomes the first law of its kind prohibit "alien ineligible for citizenship" from owning property or possessing a lease longer than three years. The law would be amended in 1920 to close loopholes that were being exploited by Japanese, Chinese, Indian, and Korean immigrants.

Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past,

threatens the future,

and renders the present inaccessible.

- Maya Angelou
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1915 - The first "mounted inspectors" begin to patrol the US-Mexican Border as waves of Mexican refugees attempt to flee the Mexican Revolution & subsequent civil wars. (Link takes you to a Department of Homeland Security website).

1915 - Guin v. US: the Supreme Court outlaws literacy test to qualify voters for federal elections. Despite this ruling many states continue to require voters to pass such test. (Link downloads a literacy test from Louisiana).

1917 - The Immigration Act of 1917 denies entry to East Asian & the Pacific Islands. (Link takes you to a University of Washington website).

1920 - The 19th Amendment grants women the right to vote. (Links takes you to the Women's Rights National Historic Park website).

1921 - The Emergency Quota Act sets specific immigration quotas for each country of origin. The quota system is used until 1965 in determining who is allowed to immigrate. (Link takes you to a University of Washington website).

1922 - The Japanese citizens living in the United States are made ineligible for American citizenship. (Link takes you to a Densho website about the case Ozawa v US).

1923 - US v. Bhagat Singh Thind: The Supreme Court rules that Asians do not qualify for naturalization, because they are not "white". (Link takes you to a PBS website).

1924 - The Indian Citizenship Act grants all Native Americans the right to endows them with American citizenship & the right to vote. (Link takes you to the National Archive website).

1929 - The annual immigration quota of 2% per nationality is made permanent.

1942 - Executive Order 9066 is signed and allowing the military in the designated "Military Exclusion Zone" to remove people of Japanese descent to Assembly Centers and then to WRA Relocation Centers. (Link takes you to the National Archive website)

1946 - Procedures are adopted to facilitate the immigration of foreign born wives, fiancés, husbands, & children of US armed service personnel.

1952 - The Immigration & Nationality Act eliminates the use of race to bar immigration or deny citizenship. However, annual quotas remain in place for Japan (185), China (100), & other Asian countries (100 per country). The immigration quota system is removed in Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965. (Link takes you to the University of Washington website).

1954 - Brown v Board of Education: the Supreme Court overturns Plessy v Ferguson deciding that separate is not equal. This allows for the integration of educational facilities. (Link Takes you to Brown v Board of Education National Historic Site website).

1964 - The 24th Amendment bans poll taxes in federal elections. (Link takes you to a Cornell University website).

1965 - The Voting Rights Act protects minority voters & eliminates voting barriers such as literacy test and poll taxes. (Link takes you to the NPS website; Civil War to Civil Rights website).

1965 - The Hart-Cellar Act abolishes the national origin quotas. Instead, emphasis on family ties, critical skills, artistic excellence, & refugee status. (Link takes you to a University of Washington website).


People come here penniless but not cultureless. They bring us gifts.

We can synthesize the best of our traditions with the best of theirs.

We can teach and learn from each other to produce a better America…

- Mary Pipher




1967 - Loving v. Virginia: The Supreme Court rules a 1924 state law on “miscegenation" (marriage between people of different races) violates the 14th Amendment. (Link takes you to a Cornell University website).

1970 - Oregon v. Mitchell: the Supreme Court upholds the ban on literacy test. Justice Hugo Black cites the "long history of discriminatory use of literacy tests to disenfranchise voters on account of their race". (Link takes you to a Cornell University website).

1971 - The 26th Amendment sets the minimum age of voting at 18. (Link takes you to the National Archives website).

1974 - Lau v. Nichols: the Supreme Court rules that Chinese-American students are being denied equal access to public education in San Francisco Public Schools due to their lack of English proficiency. (Link takes you to the transcript of The Supreme Court's decision).

1986 - The Immigration & Control Act provides amnesty for many undocumented aliens & sanctions employers for hiring undocumented workers. (Link takes you to a University of Washington website).
1986 - Bowers v. Hardwick: the Supreme Court rules that homosexuals are not constitutionally protected due to their sexual behavior. Because of this they cannot seek protection as a group under the law. (Link takes you to a PBS website).

1990 - The Immigration Act of 1990 limits unskilled workers to 10,000 per year. The act promotes the use of family reunification & skilled labor as higher priorities in choosing who can immigrate. (Link takes you to a University of Washington website).

1993 - Connecticut becomes the first state to pass a Religious Freedom Restoration Act. These laws create a legal defense for those that deny services to anyone who violates their religious belief. Currently 21 states have similar laws with 4 other states with legislation pending as of 2015. (Link takes you to a PBS website about the history of religion in the America).

1996 - Romer v. Evans: the Supreme Court rules that the state of Colorado does not have a legitimate interest in the sexual orientation of its citizens. (Link takes you to a Cornell University website).

1998 - Hawaii & Alaska becomes the first of 30 states to pass state constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage. (Link takes you to a PBS timeline of milestones in the Gay Rights Movemet).

2001 - The Patriot Act amends the Immigration & Nationality Act to broaden the scope of aliens ineligible for admission or deportable due to suspicion of terrorist activity. (Link downloads a pdf of "Immigration policy before and after September 11, 2001).

2008 - Witt v. Air Force: the Supreme Court rules that the policy of "Don't ask, don't tell" is unconstitutional because it creates a class of "heightened scrutiny" based on sexual orientation. (Link takes you to an academic article on the history of LGBT policy and the US military).

2008 - Arizona passes SB 1070, requiring law enforcement to determine the immigration status of anyone of “reasonable suspicion”. (Link takes you to a Metropolitan State website about Race, Ethnicity, and Migration).

2013 - US v. Windsor: the Supreme Court rules that the Defense of Marriage Act as a "federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose & effect to disparage & to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood & dignity." With this ruling the federal government begins to recognize the marriages and civil unions of LGBT couples. (Link takes you to a Cornell University website).


Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality...

Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

-Martin Luther King Jr.

Last updated: June 15, 2015

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PO Box 570
Hagerman, ID 83332



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