From Wrong To Right: A U.S. Apology For Japanese Internment : Code Switch More than 100,000 people of Japanese descent were put in camps during World War II. Decades later and inspired by the civil rights movement, Japanese-Americans launched a campaign for redress that culminated in an official apology. The community marks the 25th anniversary of that victory this week.
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From Wrong To Right: A U.S. Apology For Japanese Internment

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From Wrong To Right: A U.S. Apology For Japanese Internment

From Wrong To Right: A U.S. Apology For Japanese Internment

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

This month, the nation marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington where Dr. King spoke of his dream for a more equal America. And 25 years ago, the Japanese-American community celebrated a milestone in its own campaign for civil rights. On August 10, 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill compensating Japanese-Americans for being sent to internment camps during World War II.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESIDENT REAGAN)

(SOUNDBITE OF NEWSREEL)

: In 1942, the U.S. War Relocation Authority moved more than 100,000 people of Japanese descent behind barbed wires. They were forced to abandon their homes and businesses. Most of them were citizens and many of them were children. John Tateishi was one of them. He says it was humiliating and disorienting.

JOHN TATEISHI: We came out of these camps with a sense of shame and guilt and of having been considered betrayers of our country.

: And he says after the war most families never spoke about it.

TATEISHI: There were no complaints, no big rallies or demands for justice because it was not the Japanese way.

: But decades later, a new generation wanted to challenge the Japanese way. In 1978 the Japanese-American Citizens League launched a campaign for redress. Two years later, Congress responded by establishing a commission to investigate the legacy of the camps.

REPRESENTATIVE DORIS MATSUI: These meetings were held around the country and it was unbelievable what came out of that, the emotion that was probably suppressed for a very long time.

: Congresswoman Doris Matsui says that emotional testimony empowered the movement. And when the commission issued its final report, it called the incarceration a grave injustice motivated by racial prejudice, war hysteria and the failure of political leadership. The bill that emerged from that report provided a written apology and $20,000 in tax-free compensation for each victim. It was co-sponsored by Norm Mineta. He served in two presidential Cabinets, but says that bipartisan effort for redress remains one of his proudest achievements.

NORM MINETA: Today, I just feel that Congress is so polarized that I'm not sure that a grassroots movement like this would have the kind of impact that we see resulting in the signing of the bill by President Reagan in 1988.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED SPEECH)

: Back at the National Archives, I found 24-year-old Lauren Namba quietly looking at that bill in its glass case.

LAUREN NAMBA: Seeing the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which basically granted redress to all of those who survived the experience, it was very moving for me.

: And John Tateishi who helped lead the campaign for redress says it really was for Namba's generation.

TATEISHI: There's a saying in the Japanese culture, it says 'kodomo no tame ni,' which means, 'for the sake of the children.' And for us, running this campaign, that had much to do with it. It's the legacy we're handing down to them and to the nation to say that, you know, you can make this mistake, but you also have to correct it. And by correcting it, hopefully not repeat it again.

: The original Executive Order 9066 and the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 will be on display together in the National Archives until August 19. Bilal Qureshi, NPR News.

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