Nisei College Redress Project (NCRP)
NCRP promotes reconciliation between Japanese Americans and the Midwestern colleges which banned them during World War II.
Attending college for Nisei, second-generation Japanese Americans, was both literal freedom from incarceration and, figuratively, the freedom to rejoin America. Unfortunately, about 3/4ths of Midwestern colleges did not admit Japanese Americans during WWII. Many of these colleges denied admission to Japanese American applicants on the basis of their race alone. Being able to enroll was life changing:
Like the flickering flame of a candle my faith in this land of my birth almost dwindled after months of confinement … bitterness began to clutch my power of reasoning as I began to think that my Japanese face was the crime for which I was accused. How I prayed that somehow God would restore my faith in the nation that I loved … I was awarded a scholarship … which was the answer to my prayers. “Nisei Students Speak for Themselves,” Junior College Journal 14 (1943–44), 244.
By building contextualized institutional histories, and then drawing upon the lessons learned from the extension of redress to West Coast colleges, the Nisei College Redress Project (NCRP) seeks to work directly with faculty, administrators, and community members at Midwestern colleges to understand how their institution’s past actions affected the Japanese American community, to outline possible paths for reconciliation, and to invite reflection on how their processes may deny education to disadvantaged populations today.
Indiana University’s Board of Trustees ruled that “no Jap. be admitted to Indiana University” in May 1942. About a dozen Japanese Americans were denied admission, including those which lived in Indiana. Indiana University apologized and will dedicate a plaque and create a scholarship program in November 2021.
The University of Chicago
The University of Chicago found it “deemed inadvisable” to admit Japanese Americans in early 1942. Almost 200 Japanese Americans faced racial barriers to admission under this policy. An upcoming exhibit at the University of Chicago library (November 2021) will feature this history.
An overview of this history can be seen in a recent talk given by Eric Langowski and hosted by the Center for East Asian Studies and the University of Chicago Libraries. The talk can be viewed here.
NCRP is looking to expand. If you have a connection with a specific college and would like to find out how the college treated Japanese Americans during WWII, contact us at ncrp (at) jaclchicago.org.