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Japanese Americans in World War II

Select Examples of Civil Rights and Human Rights Violations by the U.S. Government

African American man waiting outside segregated bus station in the U.S. South.
Segregation in the American South

African Americans

  • Slavery
  • 1865: 13th Amendment abolishes slavery
  • 1868: 14th Amendment guarantees all persons born in the U.S. have full rights as citizens.
  • 1870: 15th Amendment guarantees right to vote regardless of race.
  • Jim Crow Laws
    • Segregation in schools and other public places
    • Separate restrooms and drinking fountains
    • Voting tests
    • Poll tax (later overturned by the 24th Amendment)
    • Black Codes
      • Anti-miscegenation laws
      • Vagrancy law = arrest and involuntary labor
        • “Convict lease system” or “slavery by another name”
  • Racial disparities in the criminal justice system/law enforcement
    • Disenfranchisement of felons
    • Police profiling
    • Prison system
    • Death penalty
    • Police brutality and killings
    • For-profit prisons
  • Voter I.D. laws
  • Hurricane Katrina, for example, disproportionately affected African Americans
    • Several media outlets referred to hurricane victims as “refugees,” a title that does not apply to American citizens on American soil in their own homes.
  • Racial disparity in Florida seat belt law enforcement, according to a report published by the Americans Civil Liberties Union, January 2016.

1882 political cartoon depicting Chinese immigrant being entry through the "Golden Gate of Liberty."
1882 anti-Chinese political cartoon

Asian Americans

  • Japanese American Internment
  • Chinese exclusion laws
  • Japanese exclusion laws

Wounded Knee, South Dakota.  December 29, 1890.
Wounded Knee, South Dakota.  December 29, 1890.

Native Americans

  • Indian Removal Act, 1830
    • Allowed President Andrew Jackson to negotiate with southeastern tribes for their removal westward in exchange for their ancestral homelands.
    • Trail of Tears, 1838
      • Forced relocation of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole from the southeastern United States to locations further west (primarily to Indian Territory: Oklahoma)
      • Over 4,000 people died in the long march west and others suffered from disease, starvation and exposure.
  • Indian Reservations
  • Indian Schools
    • Phoenix Indian School, Arizona 1891-1931
    • Carlisle Indian Industrial School, Pennsylvania 1879-1918
  • Indian Appropriations Act, 1871
    • Ended treaty-making between tribes and the U.S. government.  All Indians Affairs would be conducted through legislation.  Served to strip Native Americans of the right to choose their counsel for redress of grievances.
  • Sand Creek Massacre (1864, Colorado Territory)
    • 675 U.S. Cavalry volunteers attack a village of 500+ Cheyenne and Arapaho, killing anywhere from 70-160 people, 2/3 women and children.
  • Wounded Knee Massacre (1890, South Dakota, on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation)
    • U.S. 7th Calvary attempted to disarm a band of Miniconjou and Hunkpapa Lakota at Wounded Knee Creek, when there was reportedly a scuffle between a deaf man who refused (or did not understand) to give up his rifle.  Over 150 Lakota men, women, and children were killed, and 51 wounded (some died later).  25 soldiers were killed and 39 wounded; some 20 soldiers received Medals of Honor.
  • American Indian Citizenship Act (1924) gives same right to vote as any citizen of the U.S. [see 15th Amendment above]
    • Government believed that with Indians as individual citizens, the tribal governments would gradually vanish.
    • Federal land allotments were no longer protected, and land could be taken and/or sold out from under the Native Americans.

Mexican American immigrants being forcibly removed during Operation Wetback, 1954.
Operation Wetback, 1954.

Hispanic Americans

  • Mexican-American War
    • Atrocities on both sides, including after annexation of California and New Mexico by occupation forces.
  • Mexican Repatriation
    • Approximately 2 million Mexican and Mexican-Americans were deported during the 1930s and 1940s.  It is believed that as many as half of those shipped back to Mexico were natural-born U.S. citizens.
  • Operation Wetback, 1954
    • Immigration and Naturalization Service program resulting in the arrest and deportation of hundreds of U.S. citizens who were not given a chance to prove their citizenship.
  • 1976 George Hanigan and his two sons kidnapped, stripped, hogtied, robbed and burned the feet of three farmworkers crossing their land, and then shot birdshot into their backs after telling them to run back to Mexico.  After three trials, one of the sons was sentenced to three years in prison, the other was found not guilty.  George Hanigan died of a heart attack before the first trial.
  • Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his policies of racial profiling against Latinos.

Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp
U.S. detention center, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

Muslim Americans

  • War on Terror
    • Torture of POWs in Iraq
      • Abu Ghraib prison abuses by U.S. Army and CIA personnel
        • Rape, sexual abuse, sodomy, murder
        • Two low-ranking enlisted men
        • The U.S. general in charge of all Iraqi prisons was demoted
        • Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld continues to walk free
    • Imprisonment without trial
    • Extrajudicial killings of Americans
    • Guantanamo Bay detention center

Resistance to Executive Order 9066

Left to right: Gordon Hirabayashi, Minoru "Min" Yasui, Fred Korematsu.
Left to right: Gordon Hirabayashi, Minoru "Min" Yasui, Fred Korematsu

Gordon Hirabayashi

Gordon Hirabayashi protested Executive Order 9066, initially, by refusing to obey curfew.  He then turned himself over to the FBI rather than register for relocation, hoping his action would spark legal action challenging the federal government’s right to incarcerate Japanese Americans while ignoring the due process of law.  During the FBI’s investigation, they discovered journal entries in which Hirabayashi noted his intent to ignore curfew.  He was indicted for violating Public Law 505 on May 28, 1942, a law that had made violating curfew and Civilian Exclusion Order No. 57 a federal crime.  Hirabayashi plead “not guilty” and spent 90 days in a road camp.  When his case was appealed to the Supreme Court, the court only ruled on the curfew violation, not on the constitutionality of the incarceration.

For further information, please visit Densho: The Japanese American Legacy Project:

Minoru "Min" Yasui

Minoru Yasui was an attorney from Oregon who was furious with the treatment of Japanese American following the signing of Executive Order 9066.  He was determined to force the issue in court, and purposefully allowed himself to be arrested for breaking curfew.  After his appeal before the Supreme Court was defeated he spent nine months in solitary confinement, and was sent to Minidoka Relocation Center, where he remained until 1944, when he was permitted to leave for work in Chicago.

For further in formation, please visit Densho: The Japanese American Legacy Project:

Fred Korematsu

After Executive Order 9066 was implemented, Fred Korematsu's family was sent to the Tanforan Assembly Center, but he decided to not go, wanting to stay with his Italian American girlfriend.  He went so far as to change his name and have minor plastic surgery to conceal his ethnicity.  Korematsu fought his battle to the Supreme Court, which ultimately ruled against him.  His case was taken up again in the 1980s by a legal historian, and his conviction was overturned.

For further information, please visit Densho: The Japanese American Legacy Project: and the Fred T. Korematsu Institute: