Contact: Priscilla Ouchida, Executive Director
September 22nd is National Voter Registration Day! At a time when most Americans can register to vote with the click of a mouse, the Japanese American Citizens League remembers the past and present generations of JACLers that fought discrimination at the polls and worked to secure our right to vote:
In 1924, Congress passed the Japanese Exclusion Act, which prevented first-generation Japanese Issei from becoming U.S. citizens. JACL’s Mike Masaoka successfully lobbied Congress to repeal the Act in 1952, giving over 40,000 Issei the opportunity to cast their first ballots as U.S. citizens.
In 1942, thousands of second-generation Nisei were among the 110,000 Japanese Americans who were denied their voting rights when they were forcibly uprooted and incarcerated in the aftermath of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Despite being unjustly detained and stripped of their rights, thousands of young Japanese Americans fought and died for their country in World War II as members of the U.S. Army’s famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team and Military Intelligence Service (MIS).
In 1965, third-generation Sansei traveled to Selma, Alabama to protest voting discrimination against African Americans. JACL member Todd Endo was moved to demonstrate in solidarity with African Americans after the death of his acquaintance, Minister Jim Reeb, at the hands of white segregationists.
In 2015, JACL continued to fight for voting rights and equal access to the polls by sponsoring a number of fourth-generation Yonsei to return to Selma, Alabama. The group marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on the 50th Anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” to support the restoration of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Don’t let the efforts of our past generations slip through your fingers. If you are not registered to vote, become an advocate and register today at www.JACL.org.