FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - October 19, 2021

PRESS CONTACTS:

Joseph Duong - jduong@janm.org - 213-830-5690

STATEMENT: THE JAPANESE AMERICAN NATIONAL MUSEUM WELCOMES PUBLIC APOLOGY AND POSTHUMOUS HONORARY DEGREES TO FORMER 1940s USC STUDENTS OF JAPANESE ANCESTRY


LOS ANGELES - The Japanese American National Museum (JANM) welcomes the decision by the University of Southern California (USC) to issue a public apology, and grant honorary degrees posthumously to former students of Japanese ancestry who were enrolled at the college but who were forced to leave when they and their families were incarcerated during World War II.

After the war, most did not return to USC and were refused their transcripts by the university administration. Many had no choice but to abandon their college dreams altogether.

“This gesture by USC to grant honorary degrees posthumously recognizes the deep pain and hardship suffered by those students. It is an important step in addressing a grave injustice.” said Ann Burroughs, JANM President and CEO. “It is a sad legacy of wartime racism that some families may still not know that their deceased relatives once attended USC, and that they are now eligible to receive this belated honor.” 

For Robert T. Fujioka, Vice Chair, JANM Board of Trustees, the actions by USC acknowledge the injustice suffered by his father. 

"Like most of the Nisei, my late father never criticized what the government or USC did to him during those dark days in 1942. When we were growing up, he spoke about watching Jackie Robinson break major league baseball's color barrier and cheered for two teams: the St. Louis Cardinals (he graduated from St. Louis University Dental School) and, in spite of what happened, the USC Trojans,” Fujioka said. “It may have taken 75 years, but it appears that USC is finally making things right for him and other Japanese American students, who had to endure so much for so long." 

According to its website, USC issued honorary degrees to some of the living Nisei students in 2012. But at that time, the university did not allow degrees to be issued posthumously until a reversal in policy this year.

USC estimates more than one hundred students of Japanese ancestry were enrolled at the university when Executive Order 9066 was issued on Feb. 19, 1942, mandating anyone of Japanese descent on the West Coast to be moved to concentration camps in remote US locations.

USC is working to locate former students, or their families, for an April 2022 ceremony in Pasadena, Calif. to bestow the honorary degrees. For more information, contact niseispr@usc.edu.


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Established in 1985, JANM promotes understanding and appreciation of America’s ethnic and cultural diversity by sharing the Japanese American experience. Located in the historic Little Tokyo district of downtown Los Angeles, JANM is a hybrid institution that straddles traditional museum categories and strives to provide a voice for Japanese Americans as well as a forum that enables all people to explore their own heritage and culture. Since opening to the public in 1992, JANM has presented over 70 exhibitions onsite while traveling 17 exhibits to venues such as the Smithsonian Institution and the Ellis Island Museum in the United States, and to several leading cultural museums in Japan and South America. For more information, visit janm.org or follow us on social media @jamuseum.