Resettlement in Philadelphia

Between 1942 and 1945 the National Student Relocation Program enabled a number of students to leave internment camps to enroll in colleges, universities and nursing schools in the Philadelphia area. After the east coast was opened to resettlement (January 1944) several thousand Japanese evacuees relocated to Philadelphia and Seabrook, New Jersey. A War Relocation Authority Office assisted the evacuees in finding housing and employment.

In April, 1944 the Philadelphia Hostel was opened under the joint sponsorship of the Philadelphia Council of Churches, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and a Citizens' Cooperating Committee to provide temporary housing for the evacuees. Run by Saburo and Michiyo Inouye, it served as a halfway house and social center for the Japanese American community.

The Japanese Christian Church, Fellowship House and other institutions welcomed the resettlers into their programs and activities. The Nisei Council, organized in May 1945, had monthly programs and discussions, raised funds for the Red Cross and published a newsletter.

As resettlement proceeded and Japanese Americans relocated to cities in the Mountain States, Midwest and East Coast, and returned to the West Coast, they formed local chapters of the Japanese American Citizens League. Philadelphia's chapter was formed in 1947. Through the efforts of this national organization the Nisei were able to achieve one of their most cherished goals: naturalization rights for their Issei parents by passage of the Walter-McCarran Immigration Act of 1952. The law eliminated race as a bar to naturalization and provided for repeal of the Exclusion Act of 1924, permitting a small token immigration quota for Japanese and other Asians.

At first, the relocatees lived in center city, Philadelphia, but as their economic situation improved, they moved out to the adjacent five-county area as well as into New Jersey. As typical suburbanites, they joined churches and became active members of service clubs such as Rotary, Lions and Kiwanis.

For many years the Nisei participated with other ethnic groups in the Philadelphia Folk Fair, sponsored by the Nationalities Service Center, to demonstrate art forms such as ikebana (flower arranging), origami (paper folding) and calligraphy, as well as to present traditional music and dance.

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