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Abstract

In the decades following the attainment of naturalization rights for first generation (Issei) Japanese Americans in 1952, the Japanese American Citizens League gradually shifted from a focus solely on Japanese American interests to a concern for marginalized Americans of all ancestries. Centering on the period from 1952-2002, this paper seeks to examine the factors at play as this evolution occurred, ultimately pinpointing a generational shift in the organization’s leadership, from second generation (Nisei) to third generation (Sansei), as the primary impetus. Utilizing the JACL’s newspaper, the Pacific Citizen, as a main primary source base, this paper is presented with the intention of pushing the temporal boundaries of Japanese American history, which has largely been confined to the years before, during, and immediately after incarceration. In 1992, as the JACL’s fight for redress and reparations for incarceration officially came to a close, the organization was faced with the difficult task of determining what its function would be when there appeared to be no issues specific to the Japanese American community, a situation that in many ways mirrored the position JACLers of 1952 had encountered after naturalization rights for Issei had been secured. With Sansei who had come of age during the Civil Rights Movement at the helm, the course the organization was ultimately pushed down would be quite different from that which the Nisei had chosen to follow in the years after 1952. Yet such a new direction and purpose would only be solidified after the culmination of an intergenerational conflict over differing political ideologies that would begin in the 1960s and last over two decades.

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