Seattle Evacuation Redress Committee
Ad hoc committee of the Seattle Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) organized around support for the Seattle Plan, which called for individual reparations for those affected by the World War II exclusion and incarceration.
The Seattle Evacuation Redress Committee (SERC) came together in 1973–74 around the proposal for individual reparations that was the brainchild of Boeing engineer Henry Miyatake. Early members of the group included two other Boeing engineers, Mike Nakata and Ken Nakano; Shosuke Sasaki, a retired financial analyst; and Chuck Kato, who had been a civil engineer for a federal agency called the Economic Development Administration. Each brought needed skills to the group: Nakano, a Kibei hibakusha (atomic bomb survivor) was fluent in Japanese and a bridge to Issei; Kato was an energetic and willing speaker and presenter; and Sasaki was a gifted writer and editor who authored various letters, press releases, and statements issued by SERC.
The Seattle Plan was in place by the end of 1973, and the group made numerous community presentations in the Pacific Northwest to gain support and raise money. Though there was some opposition initially, both the Seattle JACL chapter and the Pacific Northwest District Council came to support their efforts. But the group often butted heads with the leadership of the national JACL, who were slower to push for individual reparations.
In November of 1975, SERC issued "An Appeal for Action to Obtain Redress for the World War II Evacuation and Imprisonment of Japanese Americans," which laid out the particulars of the Seattle Plan, with money they had raised, and sent the document along with an audio tape and survey to all the JACL chapters and to Japanese American community newspapers. Those that returned the survey where overwhelming in their support for the idea of individual monetary reparations. Members of SERC also played a key role in instigating the successful effort to rescind Executive Order 9066 in 1976 and in organizing the first Day of Remembrance in 1979.
In early 1979, the JACL's National Committee for Redress, on the advice of the Nikkei congressional delegation, voted to pursue legislation that would form a study commission on the redress issue, rather than legislation that would actually provide reparations. Members of SERC were among those who worked with the staff of Congressman Mike Lowry to author legislation modeled on the Seattle Plan that Lowry introduced in November of 1979. But without the support of the Nikkei legislators or the JACL, the bill was killed in committee, while the study commission bill passed both houses of Congress and was signed into law in 1980, creating the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians. While Miyatake and others acknowledged the benefits of the CWRIC and took part in its hearings in 1981, others, such as Sasaki, boycotted the hearings out of protest. The CWRIC did eventually support monetary reparations and a governmental apology, and their recommendations became the basis of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, signed into law on August 10, 1988.
For More Information
Maki, Mitchell T., Harry H.L. Kitano, and S. Megan Berthold. Achieving the Impossible Dream: How Japanese Americans Obtained Redress. Forewords Robert T. Matsui and Roger Daniels. Urbana: Univeristy of Illinois Press, 1999.
Shimabukuro, Robert Sadamu. Born in Seattle: The Campaign for Japanese American Redress. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2001.
Shosuke Sasaki Collection, Densho Digital Respository. http://ddr.densho.org/ddr/densho/274/.