People, Races, Ethnicity in the U.S. Japanese Americans Part 2

About the Japanese Americans in the U.S. including where they are from, why they left, how many there are, famous Japanese-Americans and more.

JAPANESE AMERICANS

Their Story in America: Japanese emigration remained minimal until the 1880s, when large numbers of Japanese began flocking to Hawaii's plantations and the American West's farms, railroads, mines, and canneries. The Japanese were sought as replacements for the Chinese, whose exclusion in 1882 had marked the climax of organized labor's hostile and often violent reaction to cheap Chinese labor. That reaction extended to the Japanese immigrants, who were barred from owning land or marrying across the color line in California or from becoming U.S. citizens. However, U.S. relations with Japan were never better, largely due to Pres. Theodore Roosevelt, who mediated a treaty ending the Russo-Japanese War in 1905. Instead of an insulting exclusion act, the President settled on a "gentlemen's agreement" in 1907 whereby Japan would screen emigrants. Japanese immigration declined, but, unlike the Chinese, the predominantly male first wave of Japanese immigrants was free to have wives sent over. California extremists finally got their way under the 1924 Immigration Act, which barred Asian immigration entirely, an act many historians see as a contributing factor to the rise of anti-American militarism in Japan and Japan's position in W.W. II.

There was considerably less discrimination in Hawaii, where native-born Japanese were numerous enough by the 1920s to wield political power.

As soon as they could, many Japanese workers bought land. After California barred the issei, or first immigrant generation, from owning land, plots were registered in the names of their children, who were U.S. citizens by birth. Most issei farms were near cities and specialized in truck crops; by using the intensive farming techniques developed in land-scare Japan, many prospered on marginal land. The main occupations of urban issei were small businesses and gardening.

By 1941 the nisei, or second generation, constituted about two thirds of the Japanese-American community. On Feb. 19, 1942, 74 days after Pearl Harbor, Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which authorized the secretary of war to intern people of Japanese ancestry--whether or not they were American citizens. Over 110,000 were evacuated from the West Coast and put in detention camps in some of the bleakest parts of the West and as far east as Arkansas.

The Japanese generally accepted detention quietly; when young men in the camps were given the opportunity to join the army, most jumped at the chance to prove their loyalty. The 442nd Regimental Combat Team, made up of mainland and Hawaiian nisei, suffered over 9,000 casualties in France and Italy and became the most decorated military unit in U.S. history.

The evacuation order was revoked in January, 1945. While there was some residual racism, most of the barriers fell after the war. Largely through the work of the Japanese-American Citizens League, the issei were allowed to become citizens. Discriminatory laws were repealed. In 1976 Pres. Gerald Ford issued a proclamation saying that the wartime evacuation had been wrong.

Japanese Americans lost an estimated $400 million by their evacuation and detention. The U.S. Government paid them back on the average of 10 cent on the dollar.

Since the war, the Japanese-American community has become more urbanized. Today's Japanese Americans, the third generation, or sansei, are at the top of the U.S. ladder of success by almost any measure. They are better educated, are better represented in the professions, have higher incomes, and have longer life expectancies than American whites.

Famous Japanese Americans: Nobel Prize winning physicist Leo Esaki; U.S. Senators S. I. Hayakawa and Daniel K. Inouye; conductor Seiji Ozawa; actor Sessue Hayakawa; actress Pat Suzuki; contemporary abstract sculptor Isamu Noguchi; prize-winning architect Minoru Yamasaki, who designed the world's two largest buildings--the twin towers of New York's World Trade Center; Wendy Yoshimura, artist and radical who had been born in a detention camp; Iva Toguri D'Aquino (Tokyo Rose), Convicted of treason for broadcasting Japanese propaganda to U.S. GIs stationed in the Pacific during W.W. II, but granted a pardon and reinstatement of citizenship by President Ford Jan. 19, 1977.

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