Timeline for Japanese Americans in the Interior West

1882U.S. Congress passes the Chinese Exclusion Act, essentially cutting off Chinese immigration and creating a demand for Japanese labor for the American West’s railroad, mining, and agricultural industries
1900Issei immigrant population in the Interior West is 5,278
1907-1908Gentlemen’s Agreement between the U.S. and Japan becomes effective and greatly reduces Japanese immigration into the American West
1910In the decade between 1910 and 1920, Interior West region experiences an economic boom fueled by railroad construction, coal and hard-rock mining, and agricultural development; also, sugar beet production increases dramatically in this region during this peak period of Japanese immigration to the U.S., as seen in the rise in acreage devoted to this crop in Colorado, Utah, Idaho, and Nebraska from 168,425 to 506,200
1913California and Arizona pass anti-Japanese alien land laws, leading to migration of Issei laborers to Interior West states
1921Washington, Texas, and Nevada enact anti-Japanese alien land laws, while New Mexico adds an amendment to its constitution that serves a similar function
1922The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Takao Ozawa v. United States that Japanese aliens are definitely prohibited from becoming naturalized U.S. citizens on the basis of race, and this ruling remains in effect until 1952
1923Oregon, Montana, and Idaho pass anti-Japanese alien land laws
1925Kansas enacts an anti-Japanese land law
1930Population of Japanese immigrant community in Interior West is estimated at 12,862
1940U.S. Census reports Japanese American population of Interior West to be 9,624, a numerical loss reflecting the Depression’s impact
1941Mike Masaru Masaoka, a Mormon from Salt Lake City, Utah, becomes executive secretary of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL); Japan bombs U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawai’i, an act that precipitates America’s entry into World War II and marked the beginning of arrests of Nikkei and the imposition of restrictive measures on the Japanese American community
1942President Franklin Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066, setting the stage for the mass removal of people of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast and detention in U.S. Army, Department of Justice, and War Relocation Authority (WRA) concentration camps sited mostly in Interior West states; Fred Isamu Wada departs Oakland, California, with 21 people, en route to Keetley, Utah, to form Keetley Farms, a “voluntary resettler” community in the Interior West; U.S. Army issues Public Proclamation No. 4, which effectively ends the period of “voluntary evacuation” responsible for a substantial migration of West Coast Japanese Americans into the “free zone” states of the Interior West; JACL moves its national headquarters from San Francisco to Salt Lake City; U.S. government authorizes two Nikkei newspapers in Denver, Colorado (the Colorado Times and the Rocky Nippon/Shimpo) and two in Salt Lake City (the Utah Nippo and the Pacific Citizen) to serve as the “Free Zone” Japanese American wartime press; emergency meeting of JACL leaders held in Salt Lake City, which is followed by wave of anti-JACL beatings, riots, and strikes in the WRA camps; WRA issues policy statement on resettlement from its camps, resulting in a greatly enlarged Interior West Nikkei population, including a substantial number of farm workers credited with saving the region’s imperiled sugar beet crop
1943Utah and Wyoming pass anti-Japanese land laws
1944Native Nebraskan Ben Kuroki, an Army Air Corps sergeant, achieves acclaim as Japanese America’s first war hero upon completing 28 bombing missions in the European Theater, and then goes by order of the U.S. War Department on a controversial morale-raising tour of three Interior West WRA camps; two federal trials are held in Cheyenne, Wyoming, for Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee draft resisters and their leaders, and another federal trial, for treason, is held in Denver for three Nisei sisters charged with assisting in the escape of two German prisoners of war that they met when all five were working on a Trinidad, Colorado, farm; U.S. government removes restrictions preventing resettlement of Japanese Americans on the West Coast, which catalyzes a steady migration in the following years from the Interior West to California, Oregon, and Washington
1945World War II ends
1946 JACL holds its first postwar biennial convention in Denver, at which former Colorado governor Ralph Carr, the keynote speaker, is feted for being the only Interior West governor to welcome West Coast Nikkei to resettle in his respective state after Pearl Harbor
1948JACL holds its second postwar biennial convention in Salt Lake City
1953President Dwight Eisenhower confers the Congressional Medal of Honor on Hiroshi “Hershey” Miyamura of Gallup, New Mexico
1962Idaho voters approve a constitutional amendment extending basic American rights to naturalized Asian Americans, ending their exclusion from voting, holding civil office, and serving as jurors, and also terminating Idaho’s status as the only U.S. state holding such restrictions
1967Salt Lake City razes its nihonmachi (Japan Town) and replaces it with the Salt Palace Convention Center
1973Sakura Square, a one-block complex of shops, housing, and a remodeled Buddhist church, opens in downtown DenvItalic texter, near the heart of the Nikkei community’s historic nihonmachi
1978At the JACL biennial convention in Salt Lake City, the organization adopts a resolution calling for redress in the form of individual payments of no less than $25,000 to compensate Japanese Americans for their World War II mass exclusion and detention by the U.S. government
1988President Ronald Reagan signs Civil Liberties Act, which involves a presidential apology to the Japanese American community for its World War II mistreatment, along with a redress payment of $20,000 for each surviving camp inmate and the establishment of a civil liberties public education fund
2006New Mexico repeals its anti-Asian alien land law
2008Bryan Clay, a Texan of mixed African American and Japanese American heritage, wins the gold medal for the decathlon held in Beijing, China, and is declared “the world’s best athlete”; the Japanese American National Museum’s project Enduring Communities: Japanese Americans in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and Utah, as a climax to its three-year existence, stages a national conference in Denver, Whose America? Who’s American? Diversity, Civil Liberties, and Social Justice

This timeline was developed by Author A. Hansen as part of the Enduring Communities Project.

Related article >> Japanese Americans in the Interior West: A Regional Perspective on the Enduring Nikkei Historical Experience in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and Utah (and Beyond)

Last Updated November 2009

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