Edison Uno

Name Edison Uno
Born 1929
Died 1976
Birth Location Los Angeles, CA
Generational Identifier


Edison Uno (1929–76) was a Nisei civil rights leader of pioneering campaigns to educate the public about the injustice of the World War II forced removal and confinement of 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry. A "militant" activist within the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), Uno helped Japanese Americans remember the wartime mass incarceration, speak about their suffering, join pilgrimages to former camp sites, and sustain a two-year struggle to designate the Manzanar camp as a California historical landmark. [1] He also helped lead an effort to prevent future mass detentions by repealing Title II of the Internal Security Act of 1950 . In 1970, Uno initiated a JACL redress resolution calling for compensation for Japanese Americans confined in the wartime detention camps. He passed away in 1976 before redress became a mass movement but his initial activism caused many Japanese Americans to call him a "founding father" of the redress movement. [2]

Edison Uno's Early Life and Wartime Detention

Born in Los Angeles in 1929, Edison Uno had nine siblings. During World War II, he and other Japanese Americans were forced to leave their homes on the West Coast. First incarcerated at the Granada War Relocation Center in Colorado, Edison was transferred to the Crystal City internment camp in Texas to reunite with his father who was arrested by the FBI after Pearl Harbor. Edison's family, like thousands of other Japanese American families, had members stranded in Japan during the war. Edison's oldest brother, Kazumaro Buddy Uno , worked for the Japanese Army Press Bureau before the war and was later accused of mistreating Allied POWs during the war. Edison also had brothers who volunteered for U.S. military service, left the detention camp, and vowed to "destroy" their brother Buddy. [3] Because of Buddy Uno's activities in Japan, however, U.S. officials would not release Edison's father from Crystal City until September 1947. Refusing to abandon his father, Edison remained in Crystal City even after the war ended. When he left in the fall of 1946, the Crystal City officer-in-charge told him that after 1,647 days in prison, he was the last American citizen to be released. [4]

Uno returned to Los Angeles, joined the JACL in 1948 and became the youngest chapter president in JACL's history in 1950. He left Hastings Law School because of poor health, had a stroke at the age of 28, and was told by a doctor he would not live past age 40. [5] Refusing to let his health problems limit his community and political involvement, he became a tireless champion for social justice. He served as a JACL chair and board member but also became an outspoken critic from within the organization and challenged other leaders' emphasis on Japanese American wartime loyalty as demonstrated by the 442nd Regimental Combat Team , the most decorated military unit for its size and length of service. [6] Calling himself a "non-conforming progressive Nisei," he launched a one-man crusade in 1967 to gain an apology from Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren . [7] Though he admired Warren, Uno felt Warren should apologize for his wartime portrayal as California's attorney general of Japanese Americans as spies and saboteurs that needed to be incarcerated. [8] Although Warren never made a public apology, Edison learned that in 1974 he told another Nisei he felt the "greatest regret" for his support of the wartime detention. [9]

Edison Uno's Activism in the 1960s and 1970s

A dedicated and outspoken advocate for racial equality, Edison gave speeches and organized workshops for the American Civil Liberties Union , the San Francisco Labor Council, the Community Coalition for Media Change, the Citizens Advisory Committee on Integration and Desegregation, and the San Francisco Asian American Education Task Force. He also joined the San Francisco Committee on Crime, the Citizens Council for Criminal Justice, and the Committee for Prisoner Humanity and Justice. The first Japanese American appointed to the San Francisco grand jury in 1970, Uno chaired the Nisei Voters League of San Francisco and became vice-chair of the Japanese American Curriculum Project. An avid researcher on the mass detention of Japanese Americans, he served as a consultant for the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, McGraw-Hill Publishing, the 1972 NBC documentary Guilty By Reason of Race and the 1976 TV production of Farewell to Manzanar . The California Historical Society asked him to advise the curators of the 1972 exhibit Executive Order 9066 and write the introduction to the companion book. They were so impressed with his service that they elected him to their board of trustees. [10] Uno taught classes on the detention camps at colleges and universities throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. His courses condemned the injustice Japanese American endured and urged students to join multiethnic and multiracial coalitions to combat racism and imperialism. [11] Edison wrote "Minority of One" columns in the JACL's newspaper the Pacific Citizen exhorting Japanese Americans to recognize the links between their wartime mass incarceration, repressed memories of suffering and trauma, and a long history of the victimization of other people of color. [12] He organized a committee to help Indians occupying Alcatraz and supported the 1968 Third World Strike at San Francisco State University to protest the Vietnam War and create ethnic studies. [13] He also helped plan pilgrimages to the Manzanar camp in southern California and participated in a two-year campaign that resulted in Manzanar's 1973 designation as a California Historical Landmark with a plaque describing it as a "concentration camp" produced by "hysteria, racism and economic greed." [14]

In the late 1960s Uno and Raymond Okamura co-chaired a grassroots campaign to prevent the revival of "concentration camps" in America by repealing Title II of the Internal Security Act of 1950. [15] Activists in civil rights, black power, and antiwar protests feared the government might use Title II to imprison "radicals" and suspected "subversives" without due process. [16] In 1967 Okamura and Uno organized a JACL ad hoc committee that included former detainees and third generation activists and distributed pamphlets, petitions, and letters supporting the repeal. [17] Media coverage and growing pressure from JACL members persuaded JACL national leaders to take up the cause on Capitol Hill. [18] In 1969 and 1970 JACL lobbyist Mike Masaoka , Kaz Oshiki (an aide to Robert Kastenmeier who chaired a Judiciary Subcommittee), Senator Daniel Inouye , and Congressman Spark Matsunaga , played pivotal roles in getting repeal legislation passed in both houses. [19] Ironically JACL's disassociation from radical groups both delayed the organization's involvement in the repeal effort and helped it obtain the legislative support from liberals and conservatives necessary to repeal Title II in 1971. [20]

The lessons of combining community activism and political lobbying also shaped the campaign to win a pardon for Iva Toguri (d'Aquino) , convicted of treason as "Tokyo Rose" and imprisoned for six and a half years. In 1973, Clifford Uyeda , a pediatrician and community activist from San Francisco, initiated the pardon campaign. [21] Uno joined the campaign, and in 1974 introduced a JACL resolution apologizing for the organization's "long silence and inaction" and committing resources to "correct the miscarriage of justice." [22] The pardon committee distributed 10,000 booklets describing the evidence showing the unfairness of Toguri's trial and won editorial endorsements from major newspapers, religious organizations, and even Post #2471 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Toguri's appearance on 60 Minutes sparked more public letters of support while Spark Matsunaga won over members of Congress. [23] The presidential pardon, however, was finally obtained because conservative Republican Senator S.I. Hayakawa met with President Gerald Ford and convinced him to provide a full and unconditional pardon for Toguri on his last full day in office in 1977. [24]

On Christmas Eve in 1976, Uno had a heart attack and died just weeks before Toguri received her pardon. More than 700 people attended his memorial service at Calvary Presbyterian Church in San Francisco and his community contributions were recognized by numerous awards, including the American Civil Liberties Union first Alexander Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Award and the San Francisco Bar Association's Liberty Bell Award. Uno's activism on behalf of students as the assistant dean of students between 1969 and 1974 led the University of California at San Francisco to establish a Chancellor's Edison Uno Public Service Award. [25] An engraved plaque at UCSF's Millberry Union Housing Office recognized Uno's impact on the school and community by quoting author Michi N. Weglyn , who celebrated him because, "He refused to stand by silent when the human rights of any minority or any group were under attack." [26] The National JACL also posthumously honored Uno's legacy as "a strong and vocal advocate of human and civil rights" and "one of the first to call for the government to redress Japanese Americans for the wartime incarceration" by establishing the Edison Uno Civil Rights Award in 1985. [27]

Edison Uno's Contributions to the Japanese American Redress Movement

Uno passed away before his lonely campaign for redress became a mass movement that culminated in landmark legislation in 1988. In 1970 the JACL endorsed his resolution calling on Congress to "compensate on an individual basis a daily per diem requital for each day spent in confinement and/or legal exclusion" but took little action. [28] He hoped a redress campaign would both educate the public and provide overdue economic restitution to Japanese American victims of the mass incarceration. Told repeatedly that a redress campaign would "rock the boat," cost millions, and endanger support of JACL by more conservative politicians, Uno continued agitating for redress but was ignored by JACL's national leaders. After the success of the Title II repeal and the Toguri pardon campaign, however, the JACL changed course and in 1978 elected pardon campaign leader Clifford Uyeda as the JACL's national president. After ten years and the splintering of redress activists into three separate organizations, the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 provided each surviving detainee a national apology and $20,000 in compensation. Edison Uno had been dead for almost fourteen years but some Japanese American leaders felt his spirit was present at the ceremony and paid tribute to his role in inaugurating the ultimately successful movement. [29]

Authored by Alice Yang , University of California, Santa Cruz

For More Information

Conrat, Maisie, and Richard Conrat, eds. Executive Order 9066: The Internment of 110,000 Japanese Americans . San Francisco: California Historical Society, 1972; Los Angeles: University of California Asian American Studies Center, 1992.

Izumi, Masumi. "Prohibiting 'American Concentration Camps': Repeal of the Emergency Detention Act and the Public Historical Memory of the Japanese American Internment." Pacific Historical Review 74, no. 2 (2005): 165–93.

Japanese American Citizens League. "Edison Uno Civil Rights Award 2008 Guidelines."

Manzanar . Cross Currents Media. NAATA, 1971. VHS.

Manzanar Committee. The Manzanar Pilgrimage: A Time for Sharing . Los Angeles: Manzanar Committee, 1981.

Manzanar National Historic Site. http://www.nps.gov/manz/index.htm .

Murray, Alice Yang. Historical Memories of the Japanese American Internment and the Struggle for Redress . Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007.

Okamura, Raymond. "Background and History of the Repeal Campaign." Amerasia Journal 2, no. 2 (Fall 1974): 73-94.

Okamura, Raymond, Robert Takasugi, Hiroshi Kanno, and Edison Uno. "Campaign to Repeal the Emergency Detention Act." Amerasia Journal 2, no. 2 (Fall 1974): 72-73.

SNAC: The Social Networks and Archival Context Project. http://socialarchive.iath.virginia.edu/xtf/view?docId=uno-edison-cr.xml

Starting Over: Japanese Americans After the War . Dianne Fukami. NAATA, 1996. VHS.

Uno, Edison. "Therapeutic and Educational Benefits (A Commentary)." Amerasia Journal 2, no. 2 (Fall 1974): 109–111.

Uyeda, Clifford I. A Final Report and Review: The Japanese American Citizens League National Committee for Iva Toguri . Seattle, WA: Asian American Studies Program, University of Washington, 1980.


  1. Edison Uno, "'42 hysteria led to concentration camps," Pacific Citizen , December 20-27, 1974.
  2. Author's interview with Noriko Sawada Bridges (San Francisco, CA, May 10, 1990).
  3. Yuji Ichioka, "Beyond National Boundaries: The Complexity of Japanese-American History," Amerasia Journal 23, no. 2 (Fall 1997): viii; Yuji Ichioka, "The Meaning of Loyalty: The Case of Kazumaro Buddy Uno," Amerasia Journal 23, no. 2 (Fall 1997): 45–71.
  4. "Resume of Edison Uno," dated May 20, 1969, University of California, Los Angeles, University Research Library, Department of Special Collections, Edison Uno Collection, Box 38, Folder 3.
  5. Genevieve Lim, "Edison Uno, Nisei Civil Rights Advocate: A Profile," Equity & Excellence in Education 15, no. 5, (1977), 42-44.
  6. "Edison Uno to Ray Uno, memorandum re: JACL Elections, May 23, 1970," University of California, Los Angeles, University Research Library, Department of Special Collections, Edison Uno Collection, Box 40, Folder 4.
  7. Edison Uno Diary, July 8, 1974, University of California, Los Angeles, University Research Library, Department of Special Collections, Edison Uno Collection, Box 79, Folder 1.
  8. "Earl Warren Apology," University of California, Los Angeles, University Research Library, Department of Special Collections, Edison Uno Collection, Box 79, Folder 5. Edison Uno, "What Warren Once Said About Japanese Americans," Pacific Citizen , April 25, 1969.
  9. Harry K. Honda, "The Warren Era: 1891-1974," Pacific Citizen , June 28, 1974 In his memoirs, published after his death, Warren wrote, "I have since deeply regretted the removal order and my own testimony advocating it ." See Earl Warren, The Memoirs of Chief Justice Earl Warren (New York: Doubleday, 1997), 149.
  10. "Finding aid for the Edison Uno Papers, 1964-1976, #1286," (University of California, Los Angeles, Library, Department of Special Collections; Maisie Conrat and Richard Conrat, eds., Executive Order 9066: The Internment of 110,000 Japanese Americans (San Francisco: California Historical Society, 1972; Los Angeles: University of California Asian American Studies Center, 1992).
  11. Wayne Horiuchi, "Conscience of JACL," Pacific Citizen , January 21, 1977.
  12. Sachi Seko, "Edison Uno," Pacific Citizen , January 21, 1977; Edison Uno, "Manzanar - more than a memory," Rafu Shimpo , January 12, 1970. See also Jim Matsuoka, December 27, 1969, reprinted in The Manzanar Pilgrimage: A Time for Sharing (Los Angeles: Manzanar Committee, 1981), 12.
  13. "Resume of Edison Uno," dated May 20, 1969, University of California, Los Angeles, University Research Library, Department of Special Collections, Edison Uno Collection, Box 38, Folder 3. See also Karen Umemoto, "On Strike!: San Francisco State College Strike, 1968–69; The Role of Asian American Students," Amerasia Journal 15, no. 1 (Spring 1989): 3–41.
  14. Sue Kunitomi Embrey, "Manzanar Committee Chronology of Events, May 1973" and Manzanar Committee, "Original Text as Written and Submitted by the Manzanar Committee," California Department of Parks and Recreation, Office of Historic Preservation, State Landmark Program Individual Files, no. 850, Manzanar Relocation Center. For more details on the landmark controversy, see Nadine Ishitani Hata, The Historic Preservation Movement in California, 1940-1976 (Sacramento: California Department of Parks and Recreation/Office of Historic Preservation, 1992), 168-172.
  15. William Hedgepeth, "America's Concentration Camps: The Rumors and Realities," Look , May 28, 1968, 85-90.
  16. "The Concentration Camp Rumor: Nisei urges repeal of 1952 McCarran Act to Bar Detention Camp Revival; JACL in Strong Reply," Pacific Citizen , September 8, 1967, 1; Herb Robinson, "American Concentration Camp Rumors to Persist if Title II Remains," Seattle Times , October 20, 1969; For a discussion of fears that "concentration camps" might be revived, see Charles R. Allen, Concentration Camps , U.S.A. (NY: Citizens Committee for Constitutional Liberties, 1966), 59; Paul W. Valentine, "U.S. Negroes Shudder at Concentration Camp Rumors," Sunday Gazette-Mail , February 25, 1968, 2A; L.F. Palmer Jr., "When Black Professional People Start Talking Like Rap Brown (and They Are)," Chicago Daily News , October 8, 1968; "Concentration Camp," The Black Panther , July 12, 1969; and "Concentration Camps Ready as War Nears," Berkeley Barb 4, no. 3, Issue 95, June 9-15, 1967, 3.
  17. The initial ad hoc committee consisted of seven JACL members from Berkeley, Contra Costa and Oakland. After the committee convinced the three East Bay chapters to endorse a formal resolution, it learned JACL's San Francisco and Seattle chapters had mounted independent repeal campaigns. The three groups then joined together. Raymond Okamura, "Background and History of the Repeal Campaign," Amerasia Journal 2, no. 2 (Fall 1974), 78.
  18. "Title II Campaign: Heartening Responses," Pacific Citizen , September 17, 1971, 6.
  19. Testimony of Congressman Spark Matsunaga, September 14, 1971, Congressional Record, House of Representatives (Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1972), 31758; "Inouye paces speedy Senate Action," Pacific Citizen , September 14, 1971, 1; Kaz Oshiki, "Letters to the Editor," Pacific Citizen , October 27, 1976, 6.
  20. Raymond Okamura, "Background and History of the Repeal Campaign." Amerasia Journal 2, no. 2 (Fall 1974): 73–94 and Hiroshi Kanno, "Broader Implications of the Campaign (A Commentary)," Amerasia Journal 2, no. 2 (Fall 1974), 105-6.
  21. John Juji Hada, "The Indictment and Trial of Iva Ikuko Toguri d'Aquino," M.A. thesis, University of San Francisco, 1973). See also Stanley I. Kutler, "Forging a Legend: The Treason of 'Tokyo Rose,'" Wisconsin Law Review 6 (1980): 1341-82 and "At the Bar of History: Japanese Americans versus the United States," American Bar Foundation Research Journal (Spring 1985): 361-373. See also Masayo Duus, Tokyo Rose: Orphan of the Pacific (New York: Kodansha International, 1979).
  22. National JACL Resolution Adopted by the National Council on July 27, 1974 at the 23rd Biennial National Japanese American Citizens League Convention in Portland, Oregon reprinted in National Committee for Iva Toguri, "Iva Toguri (d'Aguino): Victim of a Legend" (San Francisco: Japanese American Citizens League, 1975), 29.
  23. "Matsunaga backs Iva's bid for pardon," Pacific Citizen , May 7, 1976.
  24. Clifford I. Uyeda, "The Pardoning of 'Tokyo Rose': A Report on the Restoration of American Citizenship to Iva Ikuko Toguri," Amerasia Journal 5, no. 2 (1978): 91; Bill Hosokawa, "The Hayakawa Connection," Pacific Citizen , February 18, 1977; and Wayne Horiuchi, "Pardon for Iva Toguri," Pacific Citizen , February 11, 1977.
  25. "Background on Edison T. Uno," http://ucsfchancellor.ucsf.edu/thomas-n-burbridge-and-edison-t-uno-awards .
  26. Genevieve Lim, "Edison Uno, Nisei Civil Rights Advocate: A Profile," Equity & Excellence in Education 15, no. 5, (1977), 42-44.
  27. http://www.jacl.org/news/2008%20National%20Convention/2008_Edison_Uno_Award_Guidelines.pdf ; Lynda Lin, "Civil Rights Advocate Michael Lieberman Wins Edison Uno Award," Pacific Citizen , July 16, 2010.
  28. Edison Uno, "A Requital Supplication," Edison Uno Collection, Special Collections, University Research Library, University of California, Los Angeles, Box 38, Folder 3.
  29. Author's interview with Clifford Uyeda (San Francisco, CA, May 11, 1990).

Last updated Dec. 19, 2023, 4:09 a.m..