Scope and Content
Title: Norman Y. Mineta Papers,
Date (inclusive): 1975-1996
Collection number: 96.370
Mineta, Norman Y.
Extent: ca. 45 linear feet.
Japanese American National Museum (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Los Angeles, California 90012
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[Identification of item], Norman Y. Mineta Papers, Japanese American National Museum (96.370).
Norman Yoshio Mineta was the first Japanese American to serve as Mayor of a major American city and the first from the continental
United States to be elected to Congress. Mineta was born in San Jose, California on November 12, 1931. During World War II,
he and other Japanese Americans living on the West Coast were incarcerated in concentration camps because of their ancestry.
Mineta and his family were interned at the Heart Mountain concentration camp
in Wyoming from 1942 to 1945. Upon returning from camp, he graduated from San Jose High School in 1949 and the University
of California, Berkeley in 1953. After college, Mineta served in the United States Army from 1953-56. After he left the Army,
he went into the family insurance business.
Mineta began his career in politics in 1962 as a member of the San Jose Human Relations Commission and served on the Board
of Directors for the San Jose Housing Authority in 1966. In 1967, he was elected to the San Jose City Council and later served
as Mayor from 1971 to 1974. In 1974, Mineta was elected to the United States House of Representatives.
During his tenure in Congress, Mineta was appointed to the position of Democratic Deputy Whip and became a member of the Democratic
Steering and Policy Committee. He also served on the Public Works and Transportation Committee, chairing four of the six subcommittees:
Surface Transportation, Aviation, Investigations and Oversight, and Public Buildings and Grounds. He authored the Airport
and Airways Safety and Capacity Expansion Act of 1987, the Hazardous Material Transportation Uniform Safety Amendments of
1990 and the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991. Because of his long-standing efforts, Mineta was elected
Chair of the Public Works & Transportation Committee in 1993. After serving nine terms, Mineta left office in 1995 to accept
a position as senior vice president of Lockheed Martin IMS.
Perhaps Mineta's greatest legacy in Congress was his work on redress for Japanese Americans who were interned in concentration
camps during World War II. As a ten year old boy in 1942, Mineta and his family were forced to leave their home in San Jose
and were detained in the Heart Mountain concentration camp. Like other Japanese Americans living on the West Coast, the Mineta
family lost a great deal due to the incarceration: they gave away most of their possessions since they could only take to
camp what they could physically carry; their savings account at the Yokohama Bank was frozen by the government; and they were
forced to sell their family insurance agency in San Jose. These personal experiences of internment would later influence Mineta
to become an important force in Congress for redress legislation.
The redress movement was a grassroots movement that began in the Japanese American community in the 1970s. By 1978, many Japanese
American activists were pushing for legislation which demanded that the government pay each former camp internee $25,000 and
formally apologize for injustices committed during World War II. In 1979, Mineta and three other Nikkei
congressmen, Senators Daniel Inouye and Masayuki "Spark" Matsunaga of Hawai'i, and Representative Robert Matsui of California,
met with leaders of the Japanese American community to discuss the possibility of redress for Japanese Americans. After much
discussion, the group recommended that a formal commission be formed to investigate the justification for the camps to determine
if redress was an appropriate remedy. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter signed Public Law 96-317 which created the Commission
on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC). The CWRIC held pubic hearings throughout the nation and concluded
that the interment was a result of "race prejudice, wartime hysteria, and a lack of political leadership." They also recommended
that the government issue a formal apology and pay each surviving internee $20,000 in redress.
Acting on the CWRIC recommendations, Mineta and the other Nikkei Congressmen sponsored several redress bills in the 1980s
and lobbied fellow members of Congress for support. On September 17, 1987, the 200th anniversary of the United States Constitution,
the redress bill HR 442 was passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 243 to 141. Later, the Senate passed its version
of the redress bill S 1009 on April 20, 1988. On August 10, 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of
1988 which called for a formal apology and $20,000 in compensation to each survivor of the concentration camps. At a tribute
dinner held in his honor in 1995, Mineta recalled the privilege of signing HR 442 after it had passed the House of Representatives:
"There has never been a moment when I loved this country more," he said. Redress was " the best expression of what this nation
can be and the power of government to heal and make right what was wrong."
1Heart Mountain was the site of one of 10 concentration camps that housed Japanese Americans forcibly removed form the West
Coast states during World War II. It was located in northwestern Wyoming, in Park County, 13 miles northeast of Cody. Heart
Mountain opened on August 12, 1942 and closed November 10, 1945.
Nikkei is generally used in the same way as the term "Japanese American" both as a noun and an adjective.
Nikkei has at least two additional meanings in a Japanese context. It is a term used by Japanese to indicate any person of Japanese
descent who immigrated abroad or is the descendant of such immigrants.
Scope and Content
The papers of Congressman Norman Y. Mineta cover the period from 1975 to 1996 and measure approximately 45 linear feet. This
collection consists of correspondence, memoranda, government publications, speeches, newspaper clippings, books, briefings,
photographs, video and audio recordings, and meeting notes. These materials document Congressman Mineta's involvement in the
redress movement. Also included are some non-redress materials related to civil rights issues, especially as they pertain
to Asian Americans and Americans from the Pacific Islands, as well as materials that document his campaign activities. Mineta's
office staff selected materials to donate to the Japanese American National Museum, therefore, the Museum holds only a part
of Mineta's congressional office files.
In processing this collection, the original topical order of the files has been preserved. Similarly, whenever possible, the
original file headings have been maintained. The original order demonstrates how Mineta and his staff conceptualized and orchestrated
the many complex issues related to the redress movement.
Notes in square brackets describe the nature or format of the materials. Explanatory notes, added by Japanese American National
Museum staff, have been placed in parenthesis.