Captain George Vancouver Julia Butler Hansen Carlos Bulosan Ernestine Anderson Kurt Cobain Bill Gates & Paul Allen Home
Search Encyclopedia
Facebook
Advanced Search
Featured Eassy Sponsor of the Week Book Store Donate Now
Home About Us Contact Us Education Bookstore Tourism Advanced Search
6835 HistoryLink.org essays now available      
Donate Subscribe

Shortcuts

Libraries
Cyberpedias Cyberpedias
Timeline Essays Timeline Essays
People's Histories People's Histories

Selected Collections
Cities & Towns Cities & Towns
County Thumbnails Counties
Biographies Biographies
Interactive Cybertours Interactive Cybertours
Slide Shows Slideshows
Public Ports Public Ports
Audio & Video Audio & Video

Research Shortcuts

Map Searches
Alphabetical Search
Timeline Date Search
Topic Search

Features

Book of the Fortnight
Audio/Video Enhanced
History Bookshelf
Klondike Gold Rush Database
Duvall Newspaper Index
Wellington Scrapbook

More History

Washington FAQs
Washington Milestones
Honor Rolls
Columbia Basin
Everett
Olympia
Seattle
Spokane
Tacoma
Walla Walla
Roads & Rails

Cyberpedia Library

< Browse to Previous Essay | Browse to Next Essay >

Japanese Americans in Seattle and King County

HistoryLink.org Essay 231 : Printer-Friendly Format

For more than a hundred years, Japanese Americans have made significant contributions to the commercial, cultural and social history of Seattle and King County.

Early immigrants arrived just before the turn of the century to work on railroads and in sawmills and canneries, eking out a living while enduring discrimination in immigration, employment, and housing. Others turned to farming, converting land covered with marshes and tree stumps into productive cropland. Hardships notwithstanding, they raised families, ran businesses, and developed a vibrant community life.

In Seattle, a large "Japantown" flourished at the south end of downtown in the early 1900s. A wide variety of small businesses served the growing population of immigrants and their descendants.

Despite their segregation, Japanese residents became fully involved in American life, forming churches, attending area schools and colleges, joining Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, playing baseball, basketball, and other sports, and enjoying the music and movies of the day.

Integral Part of Economy

Japanese Americans worked hard and became an integral part of the local economy, supplying most of the region's vegetables and milk, and operating a significant number of Seattle's small businesses such as hotels, restaurants, and laundries.

Their pursuit of the American Dream came to a shattering halt during World War II. Two months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, on February 19, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, setting in motion the expulsion of 110,000 Japanese Americans from the West Coast to 10 inland prison camps.

This expulsion proceeded without due process of law as required by the U.S. Constitution. In fact, no camp inmate was accused of any crime or charged or convicted of any act of espionage or sabotage.

In the name of "military necessity," tens of thousands of people, two thirds of them American citizens, were forced from their homes, businesses and neighborhoods and made prisoners of war in their own country. They were assumed to be guilty because of their ancestry.

The beginning of World War II was disastrous for the Japanese community in Seattle and in communities throughout the West Coast. But even as the uprooting was destroying a way of life, a new life was emerging. While their parents and families languished in concentration camps, Nisei, second-generation Japanese Americans, joined the U.S. armed forces and served on the European and Pacific fronts. The all-Nisei 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team suffered enormous casualties and became the most decorated military unit of its size in the country.

Post-War Recovery

After the war, Japanese Americans enjoyed greater freedom and opportunities, and began to enter the American mainstream. Nisei used the GI Bill to attend college, and after graduation, they entered a wider variety of professional fields.

Energized by the civil rights movement, the third generation, or Sansei, worked with the Nisei to redress the injustice of the wartime imprisonment, and waged new battles against discrimination and racism. This culminated in the redress movement -- the successful campaign to right the wrong of the wartime incarceration. In August 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act, which delivered an official apology and $20,000 in payment to each former camp inmate.

Today, Japanese Americans remain a vital part of King County's social and economic fabric. At the same time, young people are experiencing renewed interest in their culture and heritage in America, even as they have achieved professional and personal success.

Sources:
Roger Daniels, Asian America: Chinese and Japanese in the United States since 1850 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1988); Anne Reeploeg Fisher, Exile of a Race (Seattle: F and T Publishers, 1965); Gail M. Nomura, "Washington's Asian/Pacific American Communities," in Peoples of Washington: Perspectives on Cultural Diversity, ed. by Sid White and S.E. Solberg (Pullman: Washington State University Press, 1989); Monica Sone, Nisei Daughter (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1953); David A. Takami, Divided Destiny: A History of Japanese Americans in Seattle (Seattle: Wing Luke Asian Museum and University of Washington Press, 1998); Michi Weglyn, Years of Infamy: The Untold Story of America's Concentration Camps (New York: William Morrow and Co., Inc., 1976).


< Browse to Previous Essay | Browse to Next Essay >

Related Topics: Roots | Asian & Pacific Islander Americans |

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both HistoryLink.org and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License


Major Support for HistoryLink.org Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You


This essay made possible by:
City of Seattle


Japanese Town in Barneston, 1911
Courtesy Seattle Public Utilities


Buichiro (Johnny) Itabashi dairy farm, Auburn, ca. 1919
Courtesy White River Valley Museum


Seattle posting of the first Japanese Exclusion Order (No 17, dated April 24, 1942)
Courtesy Schmid, Social Trends in Seattle (1944)


Interior, Seattle Buddist Church, designed by architect Kichio Arai, 1999
Photo by Heather MacIntosh


Honor Roll of internees from Minidoka Relocation Center killed in military service during World War II, Minidoka National Monumnet, Hunt, Idaho, 2004
Photo by Paula Becker


 
Home About Us Contact Us Education Bookstore Tourism Advanced Search

HistoryLink.org is the first online encyclopedia of local and state history created expressly for the Internet. (SM)
HistoryLink.org is a free public and educational resource produced by History Ink, a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt corporation.
Contact us by phone at 206.447.8140, by mail at Historylink, 1411 4th Ave. Suite 803, Seattle WA 98101 or email admin@historylink.org