Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) New York Chapter

Year: 1944-

In 1944 the New York Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League was formed with Al Funabashi as the first Chapter president. JACL is the national organization formed on the West Coast in 1930 to emphasize loyalty, patriotism, and citizenship to counter the negative actions of white Americans. The US government enacted a series of laws, especially in California, such as the 1913 “Alien Land Law,” which prevented ownership of land by aliens ineligible for citizenship and restricted leases by such people to three years. Other states in the West and Southwest followed suit. In 1924, Congress passed the Japanese Exclusion Act, ending the immigration of Japanese to the United States. Congress overrode President Truman’s veto to enact the McCarran-Walters Immigration and Naturalization Act in 1952, ending the 1924 Japanese Exclusion Act and permitting Isseis to apply for U.S. Citizenship for the first time since 1790. Consequently, the NY Chapter conducted a U.S. Citizenship class at the Japanese Methodist Church for those Isseis interested in becoming U.S. citizens. The class was well attended. In 1969 the Chapter was active in trying to sensitize the New York media from using the word “Jap,” even as an abbreviation. This is a derogatory term for Japanese Americans and stems from its use by Caucasians before the war. The effort was led by Shosuke Sasaki. When the designer Kenzo Takada advertised himself as “Kenzo the Jap,” George Yuzawa led the charge to have him stop using the word. Suki Terada Ports pushed her grandchild’s stroller and joined members of JACL, other Japanese Americans, and friends of other races in the first three-generation picket line in front of Bonwit Teller. The protest was so successful that within one hour, the sign for the “JAP Boutique” was removed. The Chapter continually supported the National agenda, such as the Redress program, including the Commission Hearings. The Chapter also was involved with community activities and supported many other organizations’ programs. Local activities of the Chapter included giving an annual scholarship to deserving high school graduates, such as the Lucille Nakamura Scholarship Award for the student who had distinguished him/herself in extra-curricular activities of service for the benefit of others. Also, the Ruby Yoshino Schaar Playwright Award was presented to creative Japanese American writers, given in memory of the late Ruby Yoshino Schaar, soprano and music teacher and longtime Chapter President who worked with all racial groups to insure civil rights in New York.

Source: JAA
Added Date: 03/20/2021