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Register of the Papers of



10.5 ft.

MSS 73


Monique Bourque


Sumiko Kobayashi was born in 1923 in Yamato, a Japanese agricultural community near Palm Beach, Florida.  Her father Susumu Kobayashi had emigrated from Japan in 1914.  In 1922 Susumu Kobayashi returned to Japan to marry Suye Matsumoto.  After the marriage, which had been arranged by Susumu's brother, the couple came to the United States and settled on Kobayashi's land in Yamato.

In 1925 the family moved to Riverbank, an estate near Chicago, Illinois owned by a Colonel George Fabyan.  There Susumu worked in the estate's greenhouses and looked after the grounds and Japanese garden.  The family remained at Riverbank until 1939, when the estate was given to the county for use as a forest preserve following the deaths of the Colonel and his wife.  The Kobayashis then moved to San Leandro, California.  Here Sumiko and her brother Noboru and sister Michiko attended school.  Sumiko graduated from San Leandro High School in 1941.

In May 1942 the family was evacuated under Executive Order 9066 to the Tanforan Assembly Center, a former race track, and then placed in the internment camp in Topaz, Utah.  Sumiko's brother Noboru graduated from the camp's high school before the family's release in 1944, after which the family relocated to Connecticut.  They then settled in the Philadelphia area, where Susumu Kobayashi operated a contract gardening business.

Sumiko was among the young Japanese Americans allowed to leave the camps in order to attend college through the help of the National Japanese American Student Relocation Council.  She encountered some difficulties in locating a school which would accept her, as many universities maintained quotas for Japanese students, and schools to which she initially applied had already filled their quotas.  However, she was accepted by Brothers College, Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, and given a tuition scholarship.  She was among less than a dozen Japanese Americans in the student body.

During the first two years of college, Sumiko boarded and worked in the homes of local families.  When her parents had relocated and could send her more money, she moved into a dormitory on campus for her last two years.  She graduated in 1946 with a B.A. in Economics.  After working in the College Registrar's Office for a year, Sumiko moved to Philadelphia to be with her family.  She has remained in the Philadelphia area to the present.

Kobayashi's professional activities have varied.  Between 1947 and 1958, she was employed in clerical work for a law office, a market research firm, and the Franklin Institute Research Labs Computer Center.  From 1952-54 she performed clerical work in Tokyo for the Army Corps of Engineers.  In 1958 she became a computer programmer for the Provident National Bank.  In 1967 she moved to the FIVIC Corporation as a programmer in Management Information Services, where she remained until her retirement in December 1985.

Sumiko Kobayashi has participated actively and held office in a number of Japanese American organizations, beginning with the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), which she joined when it formed in 1947.  In addition to participating in social events sponsored by the JACL, she has served as a board member for the Philadelphia Chapter of the JACL (1968-present), and secretary of the JACL Eastern District Council (1951-1952).  She was chairman of the JACL Food Committee for the 1969 Folk Fair, one of the many Folk Fairs in which the Philadelphia Chapter JACL participated, and has been active in others.  She was cochair, with George Higuchi, for the 1976 Folk Fair.  She has been a prominent figure in the movement to provide redress for Japanese Americans removed to internment camps during World War Two, and has served as Redress Chair for Pennsylvania of the JACL's National Committee on Redress from 1983 to the present, an office she held until the Committee was disbanded formally in 1990.  While much of Kobayashi's JACL activity has centered around redress, she has been active in community programs as well.

Kobayashi has also maintained contacts with a wide variety of cultural and political organizations.  She served on the Board of the Pan Asian Association of Greater Philadelphia and was secretary pro tem in 1986, and she was a member of the Minority Advisory Committee of the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office during 1987.  She has been active in campaigns to elect Judge Ida Chen to the Court of Common Pleas (1988-1989) following Chen's initial appointment to the post by Governor Robert Casey, to elect Delaware's Lt. Governor S.B. Woo to the U.S. Senate, and to elect Judge William M. Marutani to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Kobayashi has also helped present the history and culture of Japanese Americans to the broader American public.  In addition to coordinating a Pan Asian Association of Greater Philadelphia-sponsored display of photographs in 1987, Kobayashi has been active in the affairs of the Balch Institute since 1983.  She also participated as an interviewer in the JACL's Japanese American History Project in the late 1960s, which gathered oral interviews and personal papers from local Issei.  Her extensive connections in the Philadelphiaarea Japanese American community enabled the Institute to make use of many significant artifacts and records in its 1985 exhibition on the Japanese American experience, a number of which remain in the Institute's museum and archives.  Sumiko Kobayashi became a member of the Balch Institute's Board of Trustees in 1986.


The papers were donated by Sumiko Kobayashi between 1985 and 1990.

The correspondence between Sumiko Kobayashiand Stanley S. Nakano is restricted pending a signed release from Nakano.  (PLEASE NOTE: All restrictions were lifted after of a review of the collection in 2005. The collection is fully open for research and with no access or use restrictions.)

For material of related interest see MSS 71, the Susumu Kobayashi Papers.  The library also has extensive holdings on relocation, including the microfilm edition of the Papers of the U.S. Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians: Part 1. Numerical File Archives.


The Sumiko Kobayashi Papers document her experiences as a young woman in leaving the Topaz internment camp to enroll in college, and her later activities on behalf of redress for Japanese Americans who had been imprisoned in the internment camps in World War II.

Much of the material in Series One, Personal Papers, concerns the experiences of Kobayashi in applying to various colleges.  The correspondence between Kobayashi and college administrators and with representatives of the National Japanese American Student Relocation Council illuminates the restrictions operating on all young Japanese Americans attempting to relocate from the camps to colleges and universities.  Of particular interest in this series are the papers relating to the Kobayashi family's reparation claim, which includes documentation on the types and value of possessions lost in the family's evacuation.  Also important are the letters from Sgt. Stanley S. Nakano to Sumiko Kobayashi, in which Nakano describes his life in camp and his interactions with French and Italian locals in the course of his tour of duty in Europe.  These letters should be of interest in documenting the experiences of soldiers belonging to ethnic minorities during World War II.

The materials in Series Two, Organizations and Institutions, are of greatest value in documenting Kobayashi's activities with the Japanese American Citizen's League and her connections to a larger AsianAmerican community.  The amount of material from any given organization (with the exception of the JACL) is not large, but collectively they illustrate the breadth of Kobayashi's interests and her activities in both social events, such as the Philadelphia Chapter JACL's participation in a succession of Folk Fairs in the 1960s1980s, and political causes, such as the 1988 campaign for the election to the Senate of Lt. Governor S.B. Woo of Delaware.  Subjects of concern have included "English Only" legislation, the Asian American elderly, anti-Asian violence, and the preservation of the Japanese American heritage.

Much of the organizational material is primarily of value in documenting Kobayashi's connections with these organizations.  Only the papers from the Japanese American Citizens League provide a significant amount of information about the overall workings of the organizations themselves.  The papers from the JACL cover the organization almost from its beginning to the present, and are possibly the most extensive anywhere other than those in the possession of the JACL itself.  These papers illustrate the important place of the JACL in the cultural and political life of Japanese Americans and its connections to other Asian American cultural and political organizations.

Series Three, Redress, is composed primarily of materials generated by the National and Philadelphia Chapter JACL.  Kobayashi's work as Coordinator for Pennsylvania is well documented, including participating in planning sessions, attendance at hearings, and applying pressure to legislators through meetings, news stories, and extensive correspondence.  A significant body of materials provides information on individual legislators and how pressure to support redress legislation was brought to bear on each.  In many cases this includes correspondence either from these legislators which describes their positions on the issue, or correspondence between Kobayashi and others describing legislators' reactions to JACL lobbying.  Of particular interest are testimony from hearings on H.R. 4110, the Civil Liberties Act of 1983, which in conjunction with other printed materials provide extensive discussion of the issues involved in the right of Japanese Americans to seek and obtain redress.

Also of interest in documenting the experiences of the Issei are correspondence and other materials related to the Philadelphia Chapter JACL's Japanese American History Project, which gathered oral interviews and personal papers from Issei in the area.  Especially important are the questionnaire suggested for use in interviews and cassette tapes of interviews of her parents conducted by Kobayashi in 1965.

The bulk of the papers in Series Four, Balch Institute, are concerned with the 1985 exhibition, "The Japanese American Experience." Kobayashi was chair of the JACL-Balch Committee on the exhibit.  She worked closely with museum staff on the planning and design of the exhibition, and was directly responsible for the loan or donation of many of the materials.  These activities are outlined in the memos and correspondence here, as are her efforts in the production of the exhibit catalog.  Also of interest are several folders of correspondence concerning the acquisition of two traveling exhibitions to be shown at the same time as the Balch-generated exhibit one was a series of photographs taken at the Manzanar internment camp by Ansel Adams, and the other was an exhibition produced by the Presidio Army Museum honoring the Japanese American 100th Infantry and 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

The materials in Series Five, Subject Files, best illustrate the achievements of two local Asian Americans, Judge Ida Chen and Judge William M. Marutani, and the mobilization of the local Asian community in their behalf during the campaigns for Chen's election to the Court of Common Pleas, which was successful, and Marutani's election to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which was not successful.  Articles and clippings collected by Kobayashi on both individual Asian Americans and social issues illustrate a variety of aspects of Asian American experience, but are most informative in regard to the growth of anti-Asian hostility in the Philadelphia area and in the country in general during the 1980s.


The Sumiko Kobayashi Papers are divided into five series as follows: I. Personal Papers, II. Organizations and Institutions, III. Redress, IV. Balch Institute, V. Subject Files.  Organization within Series I and III is chronological; other series are arranged alphabetically by organization or subject, then chronologically.  There is some overlapping in organization files as their original order has been maintained.

SERIES I:  PERSONAL PAPERS, 1941-1949 (1.5 ft.).

Series One contains materials related to Kobayashi's resettlement from the Topaz Relocation Center to college in New Jersey, documents from the reparations claim she helped her father to assemble, and correspondence between Sumiko and/or her mother Suye and other Japanese Americans and acquaintances and former neighbors.  Papers related to relocation include maps/diagrams of the camps at Topaz and Minidoka, correspondence with colleges to which Sumiko applied and with staff of the National Japanese American Student Relocation Council, documents such as an application for leave and ration books, and several War Relocation Authority (WRA) printed materials including a relocation guide for New Jersey.  The correspondence includes three folders of correspondence with Stanley S. Nakano, who fought in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the mostdecorated Unit of World War II.

Other items in the series include yearbooks from San Leandro High School in San Leandro, California and Brothers College, Drew University in Madison, New Jersey from which Kobayashi graduated in 1941 and 1946 respectively.


This series contains materials from a variety of organizations to which Kobayashi belonged or belongs, and from institutions with which she came into contact.  Almost all of the organizations represented are Asian American, including the Asian American Council of Greater Philadelphia, the Pan Asian Association of Greater Philadelphia, and the Japanese Christian Church of Philadelphia.  The greater part of the material from the Japanese Christian Church seems to have been intended for Sumiko's mother Suye.  The bulk of the series is composed of materials from the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL).

Types of records include minutes, correspondence, newsletters, reports, notes, programs, and various sorts of mailings including flyers and broadsides.

SERIES III:  REDRESS, 1977-1988 (2.5 ft.).

This series is composed of papers related to Sumiko Kobayashi's efforts on behalf of the passage of legislation providing redress to Japanese Americans who were evacuated to internment camps during the Second World War.  The bulk of the materials relate to the JACL's Legislative Education Committee and to Kobayashi's activities as Coordinator for Pennsylvania.  Included are organization correspondence, minutes, reports, notes and printed materials providing information on individual congressmen and their stance on the redress issue, correspondence between Kobayashi and congressmen on the subject of redress, and testimony and other printed materials related to hearings on specific pieces of legislation, in particular H.R. 4110, the Civil Liberties Act of 1987.  Also present are correspondence, notes and printed materials concerned with Kobayashi's speaking engagements on the subject of redress and support for redress from other organizations.

SERIES IV:  BALCH INSTITUTE, 1984-1989 (1 ft.).

This series contains papers related to Sumiko Kobayashi's activities in connection with the Balch Institute, the bulk of which are concerned with the Institute's 1985 exhibit, "The Japanese American Experience."  The papers include correspondence related to funding and donations for the exhibit, meetings of the planning committee, publicity for the exhibit, and attendance.  Of particular interest are interviews with Mr. Tadafumi Mikuriya and his wife Anne Schwenk Mikuriya, and with Teru Nakano Graves and her husband Richard, which were conducted by Sumiko Kobayashi in conjunction with their donations of papers and artifacts for inclusion in the exhibit.  Also present is correspondence concerning copies of deed forms for donations made by Sumiko Kobayashi to the Balch Institute, both connected to and independent of the exhibit.  The series also includes a small amount of correspondence regarding efforts to raise money for microfilming the Japanese American newspaper Pacific Citizen, and Japanese American materials at the Balch Institute.

SERIES V:  SUBJECT FILES, 1941-1989, (.5 ft.).

This series is composed of materials which were organized by subject and could not properly be subsumed under personal or organizational headings.  Included are correspondence and other papers related to the appointment and election of Ida Chen to the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia and to the candidacy of Judge William M. Marutani to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and a banquet later given in his honor by the ACLU.  Also present are a number of articles and clippings collected by Kobayashi on Japanese Americans and on growing antiAsian violence in the United States.

Photographs have been removed to Photo Group 280.

The box list of the register of the papers of Sumiko Kobayashi is twenty-four pages long.