California Civil Liberties Public Education Program

A significant post- redress effort to educate the public about the World War II incarceration, the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program (CCLPEP) continued and extended the work of the federal Civil Liberties Public Education Fund (CLPEF) after its expiration in 1998. Introduced by Assembly Member Mike Honda and signed into law by Governor Pete Wilson in September 1998, the California Civil Liberties Public Education Act authorized $1 million in state funding to support the development of educational resources about WWII incarceration and the importance of protecting civil liberties, even in times of national crisis. Administered by the California State Library, CCLPEP awarded nearly $9 million over a twelve year period to nonprofit organizations, colleges and universities, public libraries, community groups, teachers, writers, researchers, and artists.

Program Highlights

Like its federal predecessor, CCLPEP funded a wide variety of projects: books; videos (documentaries or films); curricula (lesson plans as well as teachers' guides and/or teacher training sessions); exhibits; collections or digitization of existing collections; oral histories; artistic works, including poetry, music, and art installations; conferences, field trips, or other types of special events; academic resources and research; memorials or public honors; and website development.

In addition to funding new initiatives, CCLPEP helped to complete CLPEF projects still in progress. For example, in 1997, NCRR (renamed in 2000 from the National Coalition for Redress/Reparations to Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress to reflect its broader mission) and Visual Communications, an Asian American media arts organization, received funding from CLPEF to create a thirty-minute drama, Stand Up For Justice . The film told the story of Ralph Lazo , a Mexican American teenager who protested the incarceration by going to Manzanar with his Japanese American friends. [1] CLPEF monies went towards the development of the script, but the project required an additional $75,000 from CCLPEP in 1999 for the actual filming, and another $20,000 in 2005 to assemble a curriculum guide and hold teacher training workshops throughout California.

In addition to providing awards to support conferences, special events, and field trips to concentration camp sites like Manzanar and Tule Lake , CCLPEP also provided locations outside of California's major metropolitan areas important opportunities to highlight local connections to Japanese American history through curricula. When the Harada family home received historic landmark status by the National Park Service in 1999, the Riverside Metropolitan Museum began to document that family's history, as well as that of other Japanese American families in Riverside. The families' stories and primary documents they donated became the basis of the Reading the Walls: Riverside Stories of Internment and Return curriculum, which received funding from CCLPEP in 2006. [2]

The San Diego Public Library received a grant in 2006 to adapt the book Dear Miss Breed into a play. Dear Miss Breed was a children's book written by Joanne Oppenheim based on primary materials at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) and other sources. Widely praised, the book received an award from the National Council for the Social Studies and was named to the New York Public Library's Books for the Teenager list in 2007. [3] Created in partnership with the Asian Story Theater, the stage production was performed for middle and high school students in San Diego. [4] In total, CCLPEP provided nearly $940,000 in grants to commission forty-one artistic works—plays, paintings, musical scores, and other forms of expression. [5]

Commemoration and Teaching of Wartime Incarceration

CCLPEP also supported a statewide project to remind the public that the incarceration denied many Japanese Americans in California a very special rite of passage: graduation. In 2003, the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California (JCCCNC) launched the California Nisei High School Diploma Project with support from a $54,000 grant from CCLPEP to assist high schools in locating former students. [6] In the fall of 2000, Sierra College launched the "Standing Guard" project with support from a $12,000 CCLPEP grant. [7] In 2008, CCLPEP awarded the JCCCNC a $25,000 grant to establish the California Nisei College Diploma Project to serve as a liaison between the state's public universities and the Japanese American community in order to aid in the search for former students. [8] CCLPEP awarded nearly $970,000 for twelve additional honor or memorial projects to commemorate WWII incarceration, as well as to serve as permanent, physical reminders that racism and wartime hysteria, if left unchecked, can devastate a community. Accordingly, the bulk of such expenditures went towards preserving California's Japantowns in an initiative largely coordinated by the California Japanese American Community Leadership Council (CJACLC). [9]

In 2007, CCLPEP awarded $210,000 to the San Joaquin County Office of Education to prepare a set of recommendations to improve and enhance teaching about the Japanese American experience before, during and after World War II. [10] Co-authored with the Constitutional Rights Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Los Angeles dedicated to producing educational resources on civic responsibility, the report found that the History-Social Science Framework for California Public Schools (originally drafted in 1987 with the most recent version issued in 2005 but due for revision in 2010) paid insufficient attention to the incarceration, and that references to Japanese Americans in California and U.S. history were still "remarkably inadequate." [11] Consequently, the report provided recommendations on incorporating the Japanese American experience into the History-Social Science course descriptions for Grades 4, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12, and matched those recommendations to grade-appropriate educational resources (lesson plans, books, videos, etc.) created by the CLPEF and CCLPEP. [12]

CCLPEP's Conclusion and Legacy

The plan faced a significant setback when the state announced that deliberations for the 2010 History-Social Science Framework would be delayed due to budget constraints. [13] A year later, due to an extreme revenue shortfall, the governor announced the possibility of slashing funding to the State Library. [14] In December 2011, CCLPEP's website announced that the CCLPEP had been eliminated. [15]

CCLPEP's legacy endures, however. In 2008 and 2009, the JACL Pacific Southwest chapter received CCLPEP grants to create and implement Bridging Communities, a program that brings together Japanese American teenagers and Arab American and Muslim youth to "build solidarity and partnership between these two communities" and to address "incidents of hate and intolerance incurred by the American Muslim community in the long aftermath of the 9/11 attacks." [16] Now funded by the National Park Service, Bridging Communities is held annually in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle, in partnership with the National JACL, Pacific Northwest JACL, NCRR, and the Council of American-Islamic Relations. [17]

In total, CCLPEP gave out 366 awards during its twelve-year run. [18] Those awards helped to stage plays, produce children's books, capture oral histories, build memorials, commission pieces of art, film documentaries, and create curriculum guides. Educators in California and across the U.S.—with a quick Google search or a visit to a local library—can now easily access scores of materials to teach about the incarceration, and about Japanese Americans' contributions to state history more broadly. [19]

Authored by Alexandra L. Wood , New York University

For More Information

California Civil Liberties Public Education Program. Information Packet and Grant Application Fiscal Year 2000-2001 . Sacramento, CA: California State Library, 2000.

———. Notice to All: The California Conference on the Internment of Japanese Americans . Sacramento, CA: California State Library, 2005.

———. Project Catalog of the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program . San Francisco, CA: Asian American Curriculum Project, Inc., 2005.

California Education Code, 2010. AB 1775 § 37222, chapter 241.

———. 2009. AB 37 § 66020, chapter 213.

———. 2003. AB 781 § 51430, chapter 130.

———. 2000. AB 1915 § 13030, chapter 132.

———. 1998. AB 1915 § 13000, chapter 570.

California Japanese American Leadership Council. "CJALC Home." (accessed March 2, 2012).

Chander, Anupam and Madhavi Sunder. "All-American Hero Championed Civil Rights." The Sacramento Bee , January 30, 2011.

Hudson, Sigrid. "The Legacy of 'Farewell to Manzanar'." Discover Nikkei . (accessed August 28, 2010).

Japanese American National Museum. Once upon a Camp Multilingual Classroom Series: Dear Miss Breed Teachers' Guide . Los Angeles, CA: UCLA Asian American Studies Center; Japanese American National Museum, 2001.

Jiayi Ho, Patricia. "Revisiting Old Japantowns." San Gabriel Valley Tribune , October 21, 2006.

Martelle, Scott. "Internment: It's Not on the Blackboard." Los Angeles Times , March 6, 2006.

Muranaka, Gwen. "Nisei Diploma Campaign Kicks Off." Rafu Shimpo , November 15, 2009.

Sierra College. "Standing Guard: Our Story." (accessed March 1, 2012).


  1. Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress and California Civil Liberties Public Education Program. Stand Up for Justice Curriculum Guide. Los Angeles, CA: Visual Communications (2004), 1.
  2. California Civil Liberties Public Education Program, Reading the Walls: Riverside Stories of Internment and Return . Riverside, CA: Riverside Metropolitan Museum (2006), 1-2.
  3. Oppenheim, who resides in New York, received three more CCLPEP awards to research and publish another book, Stanley Hayami, Nisei Son . Despite positive reviews, Nisei Son did not achieve the same level of commercial success as Dear Miss Breed . Oppenheim suspects this is because the book is geared to high school, rather than middle school, where there is little mention of the incarceration apart from "maybe one or two paragraphs in AP U.S. History prep books." In discussion with the author, November 14, 2011.
  4. Arin Collins, "San Diego Public Library Receives Grants," San Diego Public Library, (accessed March 7, 2012).
  5. California Civil Liberties Public Education Program, "FY 98-99 through FY 10-11," California State Library, Sacramento, CA.
  6. California Civil Liberties Public Education Program, "FY 98-99 through FY 10-11."
  7. California Civil Liberties Public Education Program, "FY 98-99 through FY 10-11."
  8. California Civil Liberties Public Education Program, "FY 98-99 through FY 10-11."
  9. California Civil Liberties Public Education Program, "FY 98-99 through FY 10-11."
  10. California Civil Liberties Public Education Program, "FY 98-99 through FY 10-11."
  11. San Joaquin County Office of Education and the Constitutional Rights Foundation, "Analysis of the California History-Social Science Framework and Standards: Deepening our Students' Understandings of the Japanese American Experience before, during, and After World War II," California State Library, Sacramento, CA (2009), 1.
  12. San Joaquin County Office of Education, "Analysis of the California History-Social Science Framework and Standards," 2–6.
  13. Linda Springer, in discussion with the author, March 16, 2010.
  14. Michael Kelley, "In California, All State Funding for Public Libraries Remains in Jeopardy," Library Journal Archive, (accessed July 5, 2011).
  15. California State Library, "California Civil Liberties Public Education Program,",out%20against%20communities%20or%20populations . (accessed March 30, 2013).
  16. Japanese American Citizens League Pacific Southwest District, "Passing Down the Legacy," (accessed March 2, 2012); California Civil Liberties Public Education Program, "FY 98-99 through FY 10-11."
  17. "JACL's Bridging Communities Program Visits Tule Lake," Rafu Shimpo , July 8, 2011.
  18. California Civil Liberties Public Education Program, "FY 98-99 through FY 10-11."
  19. California Civil Liberties Public Education Program, "FY 98-99 through FY 10-11," (accessed July 6, 2014).

Last updated Dec. 13, 2023, 5:36 p.m..