A new digital NEIU Archives collection was released on February 20, 2020!
This collection consists of digitized audiovisual files and testimony transcripts from the federal Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) hearing that was held on the NEIU campus in September 1981. The video files from a related NEIU conference that was held a few days prior to the 1981 federal hearing are also available in the collection. These unique recordings, thought to have been lost for nearly 40 years, were discovered in summer 2018 and digitized in spring 2019. Librarians Hanna Ahn and Alyssa Vincent indexed and cataloged the digital video files to make them publicly available in NEIU Digital Commons. This collection can be accessed here: https://neiudc.neiu.edu/jarc/
The CWRIC was created in 1980 to investigate the constitutionality of Executive Order 9066, which resulted in the internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. In addition to Chicago, the CWRIC hearings were held in major cities across the country, where 750 victims and witnesses of the wartime incarceration publicly testified. The results of these hearings led to the passage of the Civil Liberties Act in 1988, which provided a formal government apology and financial reparations to the victims.
In this new digital archival collection, three generations of Japanese Americans are represented within the testimonies: the first-generation Issei who were immigrants from Japan; the Nisei, who were the second-generation Japanese American children of the Issei; and the Sansei, the third-generation Japanese Americans. Each witness was allotted five minutes before the Commission. Some discussed the educational and economic losses incurred as a result of the incarceration, while others spoke of the lasting psychological impact of the dehumanizing experience of camp life. Several of the witnesses testifying were the sons or daughters of the elderly Issei, speaking on their behalf, as they were no longer alive at the time of the hearings. It is probable that many of these Nisei, who were in their fifties and sixties in 1981, are no longer alive themselves. Some of the speakers had been incarcerated in the camps during the war as young children; others had been young men or women in their twenties and thirties. The varying ages of the speakers showcase the injustice done to the Japanese American community on a multi-generational scale.
This collection allows for current and future researchers to learn about what happened to the Issei, Nisei, and Sansei during and after the wartime incarceration and provides a lens into a past where the personal liberties of a certain group were unjustifiably forsaken.