This week I had the pleasure of attending a gallery talk on “Military Authority and the Internment of Japanese Americans during World War II,” which was given by Robert Brammer of the Law Library and Eiichi Ito from the Library of Congress Asian Division. This gallery talk was one of several that have been given in connection with the Library’s Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor exhibition. The talk covered a time period spanning over a hundred years, tracing the experiences of Japanese Americans in the United States. Eiichi talked about the restrictions and prejudices first and second generation Japanese Americans faced. First generation Japanese Americans could not become citizens while even second generation Japanese Americans who were citizens were not allowed to attend public schools, churches or public facilities. Restrictions on Japanese Americans grew as World War II began and accelerated with the entry of the United States into the war.
In 1940 Congress passed the Alien Registration Act (54 Stat. 670), which required all aliens resident in the United States to be registered. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Secretary of War Stimson persuaded President Franklin Roosevelt to issue Executive Order 9066 in February 1942, which led to the establishment of Japanese internment camps. Congress supported this Executive Order and in March 1942 passed Public Law No: 77-503, which provided penalties for anyone who violated EO 9066.
Robert then discussed the 1944 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Korematsu v. United States in which the court ruled that an exclusion order issued pursuant to Executive Order 9066 was constitutional and that the need for the government to protect itself in wartime outweighed the individual rights of Fred Korematsu, and by extension other Japanese Americans. Robert concluded his talk by noting that although we have been guaranteed various individual rights by the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, each generation must fight to ensure these are indeed upheld.
There will be two more gallery talks before the Magna Carta exhibit closes on January 19th:
January 16, 2015–Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor exhibition, noon-1pm, Heather Wanser, Preservation Directorate, discusses the conservation of George Washington’s copy of the U.S. Constitution.
January 19, 2015–Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor exhibition, 10am-11am, Chris Woods, Director, National Conservation Service (United Kingdom), discusses the care and conservation of Magna Cartas, including the Lincoln Cathedral 1215 manuscript copy in the exhibition.
The Library of Congress is commemorating the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta with an exhibition – Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor, a symposium, and a series of talks. Through January 19, 2015, the Lincoln Cathedral Magna Carta, one of four remaining originals from 1215 is on display along with other rare materials from the Library’s rich collections to tell the story of 800 years of its influence on the history of political liberty.