Japanese American Citizens League
The Japanese American Citizens League (日系アメリカ人市民同盟 Nikkei Amerikajin Shimin Dōmei ) was formed in 1929 to protect the rights of Japanese Americans from the state and federal governments. It led the charge for civil rights for Japanese Americans and anyone who faced discrimination, assisted those in internment camps during World War II, and led a successful campaign for redress for internment from the U.S. Congress.
The JACL national organization consists of 108 chapters, mostly located in major cities and metropolitan areas across the country. These chapters are separated geographically into seven district councils, each of which is headed by a district governor. The organization is guided by a board of elected officials, consisting of the officers and district governors. 
Today, the JACL has expanded its mission to protect the rights of all Asian Pacific Americans (APAs).
- 1 The History of the JACL
- 2 Relocation and Internment
- 3 Civil rights
- 4 Redress for internment
- 5 Recent activities
- 6 Programs
- 7 National Convention
- 8 Notable members
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
The History of the JACL
The Japanese American Citizens League, the nation's oldest and largest Japanese American and Asian American civil rights organization, was founded in 1929 to address issues of discrimination targeted specifically at persons of Japanese ancestry residing in the United States. In California, where the majority of Japanese Americans resided, there were over one hundred statutes that limited the rights of anyone of Japanese ancestry. Organizations like the The Grange and Native Sons of the Golden West exerted powerful influence on the state legislature and on Congress to limit participation and rights of Japanese Americans, and groups like the Asiatic Exclusion League were established with the purpose of ridding the state of its Japanese population, even those who were American citizens by birth.
Amidst this hostile environment, the JACL was established to fight for the civil rights primarily of Japanese Americans but also for the benefit of Chinese Americans and other peoples of color. Although still a small, California-based organization, the JACL was one of only a few organizations in the 1920s and 1930s willing to challenge the racist policies of the state and federal governments. With limited resources and virtually no experience in state or federal politics, the JACL nevertheless took it upon itself to set the course for civil rights for persons of Asian ancestry in the West Coast region of the United States as well as at the federal level by combating congressional legislation aimed at excluding the rights of Japanese Americans and other Asian Americans.
Relocation and Internment
The true test of the JACL came some ten years after its inception when the nation of Japan attacked the U.S. Naval base at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and launched America into World War II. Within hours after the attack at Pearl Harbor, the FBI swooped down on all Japanese communities in the West Coast states and arrested any elders identified as leaders, suddenly thrusting a young JACL leadership in the difficult position of having to confront a hostile U.S. government whose intent was to exclude and imprison the entire Japanese American population.
Throughout the war, the JACL continued its efforts to ensure some measure of protection and comfort for Japanese Americans imprisoned in government concentration camps. The organization argued for and won the right of Japanese Americans to serve in the U.S. military, resulting in the creation of a segregated unit, the famous 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which joined with the 100th Battalion from Hawaii and became the most highly decorated unit in U.S. military history, despite having only served in combat for a little over a year in the European theatre of the war.
Following the war, the JACL began a long series of legislative efforts to win the rights of Japanese Americans. In 1946, the JACL embarked on a hard-fought campaign to repeal California's Alien Land Law, which, enacted in the early years of the 20th century, prohibited all Japanese aliens (i.e. immigrants) from purchasing and owning land in the state, one of the most discriminatory statutes enacted in California against Japanese Americans. In 1948, the JACL helped found the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and, in the same year, succeeded in gaining passage of the Evacuation Claims Act, the first of a series of efforts to rectify the losses and injustices of the World War II internment. In 1949, the JACL initiated efforts in the U.S. Congress to gain the right of Japanese immigrants to become naturalized citizens of the U.S., a right denied to them for over fifty years. The 1951 Walter-McCarren Act, which was essentially a JACL-initiated bill, included language that opened a back door to give women in the United States a foothold on broadening their rights of participation in the democratic process. Among its major accomplishments, the organization committed its lobbying efforts for passage of the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act, the culmination of the great civil rights movement of the 1960s.
Redress for internment
In 1970, at its biennial convention in Chicago, the JACL passed a resolution calling for recognition of, and reparations for, the injustice of the World War II internment of Japanese Americans. It formalized the debate as a priority within the organization despite the Japanese American community's tepid response to the issue. In 1978, the JACL launched a campaign to seek redress from the U.S. government for the imprisonment and loss of freedom of Japanese Americans during World War II. The JACL was determined to seek some measure of legislative guarantee that the violation of constitutional rights visited upon Japanese Americans would never again be brought upon any group in the United States.
Within two years of launching the campaign, a JACL-sponsored legislation to create a federal investigative commission was approved by the Congress and signed by President Jimmy Carter. The Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians was established to investigate the circumstances surrounding the World War II internment and provide its findings to the Congress and the president. The commission's report in 1982 found that the government's actions were unjustified and unconstitutional, and based on this substantiation of its claims and on the commission's recommendations for monetary redress, the JACL sought legislation calling for monetary redress and a presidential apology.
The redress campaign culminated with the signing of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which provided monetary compensation and a formal apology to the victims of the World War II internment. After ten years of campaigning in Washington D.C. and across the country through its chapters' grassroots efforts, the JACL brought to a close a final episode in one of the darkest chapters in the constitutional history of the nation.
In 1994, at its national convention, the JACL passed a resolution affirming its commitment to and support of the basic human right of marriage, including the right to marry for same-sex couples. The JACL was the first national civil rights membership organization to publicly and actively adopt this position, and it has continued to be in the forefront, advocating rights for same-sex marriage. 
The JACL has also spoken up and supported various civil rights issues such as common-sense immigration reform, military hazing, the indefinite detention clause in the National Defense Authorization Act, and the 1882 Resolution.
Bridging Communities Program
The Bridging Communities Program brings youth from the Japanese and Asian American community together with Muslim and Arab American youth. The program aims to create unity between communities that have become targets of racial profiling and suspicion. High school students attend workshops on identity, community, organizing, culture, and empowerment. The program culminates with the youth visiting the Tule Lake Relocation Center, Manzanar, and Minidoka National Historic Site concentration camps, which first confined Japanese Americans during World War II. The Bridging Communities program is funded by a grant from the National Park Service.
Organizational partners include the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Tule Lake Pilgrimage Committee, the National Japanese American Historical Society, Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress, Kizuna, and Friends of Minidoka. 
JACL/OCA Leadership Summit
This annual leadership training summit is a joint program organized by the JACL which includes participants from OCA National(formerly the Organization of Chinese Americans), the second largest Asian Pacific American civil rights organizations in the United States. This three-day conference provides an opportunity for thirty emerging leaders of all ages from JACL and OCA National to learn about current national public policy issues facing the Asian American community. Workshop topics range from coalition building techniques to the strategy of successful lobbying.
Youth Leadership Summit
The Youth Leadership Summit was first established in 2010 and has been a crucial part of JACL's youth involvement. The participants are engaged through workshops, discussions, and a tour of San Francisco's Japantown, one of the three remaining historic Japanese neighborhoods in the US. Workshop topics included an introduction to JACL where membership staff presented on the history, structure, and public policy advocacy roles of the JACL, and multiculturalism in the United States. The Youth Leadership Summit has been held annually in Chicago, Portland, and Washington DC. 
Collegiate Leadership Conference
Held every year, the Collegiate Leadership Conference was established in 2009 and is patterned after the JACL/OCA Washington, DC Leadership Conference. The conference consists of a three-day program connecting Asian American student leaders from around the country with community leaders and elected officials in Washington DC. Interactive workshops and seminars cover topics ranging from immigration reform to educational policy and includes speakers from the National Education Association, the Anti-Defamation Leage, and the White House Initiative on AAPIs. is limited to Asian American college students who are in their freshman, sophomore or junior year in school.
The JACL has been helping students achieve their educational dreams with the National Scholarship and Awards Program since 1946. The program currently offers over 30 awards, with an annual total of over $70,000 in scholarships to qualified students nationwide.
The National Scholarship and Awards Program offer scholarships to students at the entering freshman, undergraduate, graduate, law, financial need and creative & performing arts. All scholarships are one-time awards. 
History of National Convention
The first JACL National Convention was held on August 29, 1930 in Seattle, Washington. The first post World War II National JACL Convention was held in Denver, Colorado. Adoption of a 14-point program of rebuilding which included Issei naturalization, reparations for discriminatory treatment during the war, re-examination of the constitutionality of the evacuation, stay of deportation on hardship cases involving Japanese nationals, a call for a national conference of minorities, elimination of racial discrimination in housing and employment, challenge of the alien land laws, creation of a research clearinghouse on the evacuation, and assistance of returning Nisei veterans.
2013 National Convention
The 2013 JACL National Convention will be held July 24 - 26, 2013 in Washington DC. The theme for the 44th convention is "Justice for All".
- Gordon Hirabayashi
- Mike Honda
- Mike Masaoka
- Doris Matsui
- Robert Matsui
- Spark Matsunaga
- Stan Matsunaka
- Norman Mineta
- James Y. Sakamoto 
- George Takei
- Japanese American National Library
- Japanese American National Museum
- Japanese American Museum of San Jose
- Densho: The Japanese American Legacy Project
- Bill Hosokawa, JACL in Quest of Justice (Morrow, 1982).