March 3rd: Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga

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Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga was a senior in high school when she was forced to leave her home and enter into a Japanese internment camp.  After internment ended, Yoshinaga was a single mother to three children, and took a job as a clerical worker to support herself and her family.  In the 1960s, she became involved with a civil rights organization called Asian Americans for Action, and a nonprofit in Harlem promoting jazz and education.  Through working with these organizations, Yoshinaga gained a more complex understanding about racism in America.  During the 1970s, she began to work 10 hours a day, six days a week, sifting through National Archives, finding documents pertaining to wartime incarceration.  Her husband later joined in to help her and together they found multiple documents proving that there was “concrete proof that the army had seen no military necessity to deprive 120,000 Americans of their rights” during the war.  Her work documenting injustices done to Japanese-Americans during the war led her to become the lead researcher with the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC).  While with the CWRIC, Yoshinaga was instrumental in proving that the government knew that the charges they brought against Japanese-Americans of espionage, which they used to justify internment, were false.  The documents Yoshinaga found were used during the retrying of court cases brought against Japanese-Americans, and helped clear their name.  Now 92 years old, Herzig-Yoshinaga has spent her entire life bringing about justice for Japanese-Americans.

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