What is the Japanese American Citizens’ League? And why is it important to Oregon?

JACL is the country’s oldest Asian American civil rights group, with a Portland chapter that has been active for more than 80 years.

In August, 2011 JACL donated 23 boxes of historically important records spanning 50 years (1930s-1980s), including photographs, legislative correspondence, documents around the internment of 4000 Japanese Americans from Oregon (over 120,000 in total) during World War II, ephemera of cultural events and youth clubs before and after internment, and business and membership directories that map the community over several decades of changes. The Portland State University Library will be cataloging, digitizing, and making this archive available to the public.

Local teachers are already planning to use it as part of their high school history curriculum. Graduate students have already begun using the collection to write about the post-internment 1940s resettlement period in Portland and the collection augments significantly the resources in Portland for studying this unique and not-always-pretty piece of Oregon heritage.

This collection, requiring over 500 hours of archivists’ time, will be archived at the PSU Library with help from a $5000 Cultural Trust grant for FY2013. The project began in August and will be available for researchers, JACL community events, outreach to K-12 and community events by mid-2013.