Japanese American Citizens League
Founded in 1929, the Japanese American Citizens League is the oldest and largest Asian American civil rights organization in the United States. Through the decades, the JACL has advocated issues to benefit the progress of not only Japanese Americans, but of all Americans, in combating prejudice and bigotry. Membership is not limited to Japanese Americans. JACL welcomes all those dedicated to promoting a world that honors diversity by respecting values of fairness, equality, and social justice. More information may be found at www.JACL.org.
The Marysville Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League encompassing Butte, Colusa, Sutter and Yuba Counties had its start at an organizational meeting on July 18, 1935. Attending this meeting were Col. Walter T. Tsukamoto, then National Executive Secretary and later National president, and Dr. Terry Hayashi (National President, 1933-1934). Local population in attendance were: C. Ishizu, Kie Saito, Noboru Honda, Kie Maruyama, Masaru Honda, Harvey Ohumura, Paul Tekawa, Tom Tsuruda, Samuel Kurihara, Kiyono Matsuura, Thomas Kurihara, Mitsuko Miyasaka, Robert Inouye, Harue Oshita, Helen Nakamura Iwasaki, Frank Nakamura, Hazel Iseri, Charlotte Maruyama, Fred Fukui, Frank Murata, Harry Fukushima, James Nakagawa, Tony Tokuno and Mosse Uchida. The twenty-four members signed the official minutes, thus forming the YSBC (Yuba, Sutter, Butte and Colusa) Chapter.
In February 1936, our chapter was represented for the first time at a Northern California District Council meeting. Then, in May 1939, the YSBC Chapter hosted its first District Council meeting which at the time included the current Central California area.
The chapter sponsored the first “Nisei Day” in the summer of 1939 which brought together hundreds of Japanese American youth of the four counties for panel and group discussions and social events. In 1940, as a gesture of good will, the YSBC Chapter donated 100 flowering cherry trees which were planted along the shores of Ellis Lake of Marysville. The same year, the “Outstanding Nisei High School Graduate Award” was initiated, based on scholarship, and extra-curricular activities. Also, held at this time were oratorical contests with speakers from Japanese American organizations.
By the end of the 1930s, chapter activities included political rallies to study election issues, classes for Nisei women who had lost their citizenship through marriage to alien Japanese and historical surveys. To achieve balance to its programs, members were encouraged to participate in ballroom dancing classes, bridge clubs and an annual striped bass derby. Also a basketball team was entered in the Marysville City League.
The outbreak of World War II thrust JACL into the role of community leadership, a position which in the past had been the exclusive domain of the parent generation. Although young in years and short of experience, the YSBC Chapter quickly mustered its resources in order to serve the Japanese American community. A full-time JACL was established with Noboru Honda serving as Executive Secretary, providing counsel and assistance to the confused and jittery residents.
When Executive Order 9066 reached the area, all properties such as the Japanese Hall, Gakuen Building and the Buddhist Church were entrusted to the JACL. Throughout the period of incarceration, the Chapter through its president, Frank Nakamura, maintained supervision through intermediaries over these properties, a task made difficult, if not impossible, by prolonged absence. Many other valuable services were rendered to the Nikkei before and after the evacuation.
When hostilities ended in August 1945, there remained the task of “picking up the pieces” and rebuilding for the future, and of translating the blood, sweat and tears into positive gains for persons of Japanese ancestry in America. Being the only Japanese American organization locally, it assumed the responsibility of assisting the returnees. Opening of the Buddhist Church building as a hostel afforded needed housing. Later, repossession of the Gakuen School and the Japanese Hall building gave many more temporary housing until permanent homes could be found. During this period, in cooperation with the WRA officer, JACL worked towards bringing about a more favorable sentiment towards the returning Japanese Americans.
In order to meet the challenges of post-war problems and others related only to the Japanese Americans, a handful of loyal JACL supporters reactivated the organization as the Marysville Chapter in 1946. The following years were to see vigorous participation in legislative programs of the antidiscrimination committee which successfully attacked unjust laws, won naturalization privileges for the parent generation and sought recompense for losses suffered as the result of wartime evacuation. Chapter members spent many long hours assisting claimants, and in 1957, it sponsored citizenship classes in cooperation with Yuba College to make an American dream come true for over 100 Issei.
During the Christmas holiday floods in 1955, the chapter mobilized its manpower and resources to aid victims of the unprecedented disaster.
Over the years, the Marysville Chapter, in conjunction with the Buddhist Church, has become the center of Japanese American activities in the four counties area. It revived the “Community Picnic”, attended by hundreds of JACLers and guests for the ensuing three decades and sponsored a baseball team through the ‘60s.
The chapter’s calendar ranged from the installation banquet, scholarship programs, cultural exhibits, sponsoring community concerts, field trips, benefit movies, disbursing grants for community projects to fund-raisers. In more recent years, it has addressed itself to the social problems confronting all Americans such as intermarriages, gay rights and anti-violence. Individually and collectively, JACLers are participating more fully in the political, economic and social life of the total community.
The above history was taken from the book The Road Not Forgotten, published by the Marysville Chapter JACL in 1995. Since that time the chapter continued to hold social events, benefit movies and field trips. Later years saw the inclusion of Day of Remembrance events and the eventual creation of Arboga Assembly Center Memorial Park. We hope to continue our event schedule when the worst of COVID is behind us.
Some Japanese words:
Gakuen: school or academy
Issei: first generation
Nisei: second generation
Nikkei: a person of Japanese descent
Day of Remembrance
On February 19th 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which gave the U.S. Army the authority to remove civilians from military zones established in Washington, Oregon, and California during WWII. This led to the forced removal and incarceration of some 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry living on the West Coast, who had to abandon their jobs, their homes, and their lives to be sent to one of ten concentration camps scattered in desolate, remote regions of the country. The Marysville Chapter JACL remembers the date with an annual program at the Sutter County Museum in Yuba City.