James Sakamoto and the Fight for Japanese American Citizenship

by Andy Marzano

In the fall of 1920, Franklin High School’s football team defeated Broadway High for the first time in the history of the cross-town rivalry. Leading Franklin to victory was a scrappy, 120-pound halfback named James Yoshinori Sakamoto. Described as an “athletic immortal”[1] in the Seattle area during his high-school years, Sakamoto used a passionate, fighter’s spirit to overcome his slender frame. A second-generation Japanese-American, Sakamoto would later spearhead another fight against overwhelming odds. From 1927 until May of 1942 Sakamoto utilized his eloquence and zeal to push for the acceptance of Nisei, or American-born Japanese, as full citizens. In 1928, he founded the Japanese American Courier, the first English-language newspaper for Japanese Americans. He also helped launch and lead the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) which has fought for civil rights for Japanese Americans and other Americans since 1929. Remarkably the former football player and one-time professional boxer was blind. He had lost his sight before beginning his long career as editor, publisher, and leader of Seattle’s Japanese American community.

This essay highlights the efforts of a man wholly committed to establishing the rights and reputation of Japanese Americans. James Sakamoto (who preferred Jimmie to James) displayed initiative and innovation at a time when Japanese Americans were widely despised and struggled to be recognized as Americans. The fact that Jimmie Sakamoto left an indelible mark on this era of Japanese-American history has never been in question. However, perspectives on his legacy have changed over time. Immediately following his death in 1955, the eulogies and biographies were overwhelmingly positive. Many of the authors were personal acquaintances of Mr. Sakamoto and had seen firsthand how “his fiery tongue and fighting spirit helped pave the way”[2] for Japanese-Americans in their quest for acceptance.

As decades passed and attitudes around civil rights and methods of social protest evolved, so too did the discussions concerning Sakamoto. Mayumi Tsutakawa’s Master’s Thesis “The Political Conservatism of James Sakamoto’s Japanese American Courier” (1976) and Yuji Ichioka’s “A Study in Dualism: James Yoshinori Sakamoto and the Japanese American Courier, 1928-1942,” (1986) show this change in perception. Writing from the perspective of a generation that was contesting the invisibility of Asian Americans and challenging model-minority stereotypes, they criticized Sakamoto as too moderate and accommodating. They disliked the fact that Sakamoto and the Courier had counseled against protest tactics and urged Nisei to Americanize as a way to win acceptance. And they and others faulted Sakamoto for working too closely with military authorities while interned at Camp Harmony during World War II. These criticisms are not invalid but don’t fully take into account the challenges that he and other Nisei faced. By looking at his life in full we can better measure the accomplishments of this extraordinary man.

Nisei Boxer

On March 22, 1903, James Yoshinori Sakamoto was born in Seattle, Washington to Osamu and Tsuchi Sakamoto. Both Osamu and Tsuchi were natives of the Yamaguchi Prefecture in Japan and were part of the “Issei,” or first generation of Japanese-born individuals to immigrate away from their native lands. First settling in Tacoma in 1884, James Sakamoto’s parents found themselves in the belly of a region bubbling with racial tensions and discrimination aimed at Asian immigrants. Initially, much of the prejudice had been directed at the Chinese population, but around the turn of the century the crosshairs turned towards the Issei Japanese. While the Chinese were largely viewed as “sojourners”, only staying long enough to acquire substantial funding, the Japanese were resented for their desire to settle and feared for their successful entrepreneurial ability.[3]

Osamu Sakamoto found relative economic success during this era. Beginning as a farmhand and manual laborer in a sawmill in Port Blakely, WA, Osamu eventually opened his own Japanese restaurant named Kagestsu. He would also later become the first Japanese immigrant to own a hotel and a used-furniture store in Seattle.[4] While Osamu and Tsuchi Sakamoto did not own all three businesses concurrently, their entrepreneurial successes earned them little but enmity from the majority of white Americans in the region, who resented and tried to curb Asian American enterprises. From the 1880s until the 1930s, Anti-Alien Land Laws and Immigration Exclusion Acts undercut the legal rights of Asian immigrants. Not only were James Sakamoto’s parents and the rest of the Issei population denied citizenship and other civil rights, they also experienced a rise of severe discrimination and racism.

James Sakamoto’s birth at the turn of the 20th Century made him one of the eldest members of the Nisei generation. Like many of the other older Nisei, Sakamoto received both American and Japanese education during his childhood. However, from an early age Sakamoto displayed a clear preference towards American education. A young James Sakamoto made it very clear where his loyalties as a citizen lay. In 1920, in the midst of racial tensions on the West Coast, the United States House of Representatives formed a Committee on Immigration and Naturalization. Its purpose was to revise immigration legislation based off an evaluation of Asian immigrants in California, Oregon and Washington. The Committee visited Seattle from July 26, 1920 until August 3, interviewing and acquiring testimonies from various individuals in the Seattle community.[5]

Marie Sakamoto, James’ eldest sister, volunteered to testify. Jimmie accompanied her and observed the hearings. When an American-born Japanese man scheduled to testify turned up absent, the 17 year-old was suddenly in the spotlight as the only one in the room who could satisfy the Committee’s desire to hear from a male member of the Nisei generation. Sakamoto initially refused, feeling unprepared, but agreed after repeated requests from the Committee members, saying he “could not help but feel it was a challenge.”[6] Asked about his schooling, Sakamoto described the two methods of education he had received, but indicated a strong gravitation towards the American way. When specifically asked why he had not “worked harder to become familiar with the Japanese language and history,” Sakamoto quipped, “well, we go to an American school five hours a day, and we attend the Japanese school for two hours. That is overwork, two hours, you see, and we do not get paid for overtime.”[7] All humor aside, Sakamoto later testified to the Committee that he simply “wanted to be American more than Japanese.”[8] Sakamoto went on to declare himself willing to enlist in the United States military if it was required of him, and said that if the Japanese Emperor attempted to claim the Nisei as his subjects and required their military service that “while it [would] be a difficult one, I [would] get out of it.”[9] The answers provided to the Immigration and Naturalization Committee illustrated the patriotism Sakamoto exuded from a young age and elicited positive responses from the representatives.

Spurred on by the wealth of opportunities available to him as a young and excited American, James Sakamoto travelled to New York City upon his graduation from Franklin High School “with the vague intention of going to college.”[10] Sakamoto found work as the editor of the English section of the Japanese-American, a newspaper directed towards the local Japanese population. This was Sakamoto’s first editorial experience and his first opportunity to communicate with the Japanese-American community on a larger scale.

In New York, Sakamoto’s love for sports brought him both fleeting fortune and lasting hardship. A regular at local gyms and an experienced judo fighter, Sakamoto’s tenacity as an athlete eventually landed him an opportunity to box professionally in the lightweight division. In need of additional income, Sakamoto took full advantage of his lucky break.[11] Sakamoto began fighting under aliases in order to participate in more bouts than allowed for professional boxers in New York at the time. His ability and competitive nature eventually made Sakamoto the first Japanese-American boxer to take the ring in historic Madison Square Garden. He won many of his fights, but the sheer volume of hits Sakamoto endured during this period would prove to be his undoing. Only a few years into his brief career, Sakamoto began suffering from what he described as a “cold in his eyes”[12], which was actually found to be the detachment of the retinas from both eyes.

This injury resulted in his eventual blindness. Despite an extreme loss that would render many dependent and depressed shells of their former selves, James Sakamoto charged ahead and recorded his most noteworthy achievements while blind. Rather than brood over his sightless future, Sakamoto took the initiative. He returned to Seattle in 1927 while some sight still remained and began to train himself to move around his house without vision or aid by donning a blindfold and learning his daily routine by muscle memory. Sakamoto also committed scores of telephone numbers to memory, so his ability to communicate was hardly handicapped when darkness fully set in.[13] .

Bill Hosokawa, a friend of James, described Sakamoto’s perseverance in his 1955 biographical article “Blind, But With A Vision”, claiming “I noticed he had an odd mannerism of raising his sightless eyes and looking toward a calendar on the wall whenever he mentioned dates. I got a weird feeling he could see…He was so independent, so sure and natural in his movements that people often forgot he lived in darkness.”[14] This perseverance in the face of hardship would become a signature of Sakamoto, and upon his return to Seattle it quickly proved to be a valuable asset to the Japanese-American community.

Return to Seattle

In 1927, Seattle reflected the discriminatory practices and anti-Asian feelings of the era. The Japanese community was widely viewed as a separate entity from the rest of Seattle’s population and perceived as loyal to the Emperor of Japan. Even within the Japanese population, fissures were growing between various groups. When James Sakamoto asked longtime friend George Ishihara about the status of the Japanese community, Ishihara detailed the clash between the two leading Japanese athletic clubs in Seattle, the Taiyos and Nippons, and how it had divided residents.[15] Although on the surface it may have seemed to be a trivial sporting rivalry, Sakamoto saw it as “splitting the community apart” because both were demanding the community’s financial and emotional support.[16] Already discriminated against by the rest of the Seattle population, the Japanese community was in a precarious position and the situation greatly distressed Sakamoto. He believed the Japanese residents of Seattle, particularly the Nisei, needed to be united and become more “closely identified with America as good strong and loyal citizens.”[17]

Despite the fact that he had just met his bride-to-be, Misao Nishitani, and was on the verge of beginning a family, Sakamoto was compelled to take action. Ishihara directed him to the Seattle Progressive Citizens League (SPCL). First created in 1921 to combat the Alien Land Laws, the League experienced little success in blocking anti-Japanese legislation. By 1927, when Sakamoto contacted President Shigeru Osawa, the Seattle Progressive Citizens League movement was inactive, with only three recorded meetings in the previous five years.[18] With the permission of Osawa, Sakamoto reorganized the leadership and mission of the Citizens League. Reputable Japanese-Americans such as Clarence Arai, the first Japanese-American Attorney in Seattle, and former Citizens League office-holders George Ishihara and Yuki Higashi headed the revamped organization. Meanwhile, Sakamoto utilized his editorial experience and a vision of Japanese-Americans assimilation to articulate new goals for the League.

On January 1, 1928, Jimmie and Misao published the inaugural edition of the Japanese-American Courier, the first all-English newspaper for Japanese-Americans. Sakamoto’s vision and the reformed mission of the Seattle Progressive Citizens League were made clear in the Courier’s debut edition. His opening editorial stated that the Courier was “in a position to encourage the synthesis of the two cultures…and in a larger sense, aid in the closing of the mythical gap between the East and the West.”[19] In later correspondence with Bill Hosokawa, Sakamoto articulated a desire to build “the character of the second generation so that we may become loyal and useful citizens who can contribute to the greatness of American life.”[20] The Nisei were at the heart of Sakamoto’s vision of acceptance into American culture. He saw this “rising generation”[21] as the key to those of Japanese ancestry establishing themselves as respectable and valued members of American society. By virtue of birthplace, Nisei were citizens of the United States, unlike members of the Issei generation who were barred from citizenship. Sakamoto fully believed that “upon the proper and solid establishment of their spiritual, civic and economic foundation will be told the true greatness of this [Nisei] generation eventually…” Sakamoto also argued that the future of Japanese-Americans would “…depend in large measure upon what we of this generation can accomplish as Americans.”[22]

Japanese American Citizenship

With Sakamoto’s passion and influence pushing them onwards, the Courier and the Seattle Progressive Citizens League began the Japanese “Citizens Movement”.[23] The movement sought to display the value of the Nisei as citizens. Sakamoto wrote that “in this way discrimination will start crumbling and harmony can be attained by the Japanese-American people.”[24] The Progressive Citizen's League was the first of its kind in terms of advocating for the Americanization of the Nisei and their actions quickly raised interest up and down the coast. Japanese-Americans in Oregon and California contacted Sakamoto and the SPCL President, Clarence Arai, requesting advice and support in creating similar organizations. Sensing that the movement had potential for expansion, Sakamoto and Arai called for a coast-wide conference in Los Angeles in April 1929.[25] Nisei representatives from the three coastal states attended. A follow-up convention was planned to be held in Seattle to discuss the creation of a national organization. In April 1930, prominent Japanese-Americans from California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Illinois and New York travelled to Seattle and established the Japanese-American Citizens League (JACL) with the SPCL’s own Clarence Arai as the first National President.[26] Created with the intention of acting as the political representative for Japanese-American citizens, the JACL made it a priority to assist their constituents in becoming “good strong loyal American Citizens of Japanese ancestry.”[27] Sakamoto later outlined three main contributions the League hoped the Nisei would deliver:

“1) Make their contribution to the social life of the nation thru their development as Americans, living with other citizens in a common community of interest and activity to promote the national welfare.

2) Make their contribution to the economic welfare of the nation thru their development as useful and industrious citizens in the agricultural, industrial and commercial realms of activity.

3) Make their contribution to the civic welfare of the nation as intelligent voters, regardless of affiliations and as public-spirited citizens, concerned with the government and well-being of their country.”[28]

Still highly influential today, the JACL grew into a respected political body whose loyalty to the United States government never wavered. Programs and publications such as “The Second Generation Development Program” and The Pacific Citizen were offspring of the JACL, created in order to make the Nisei politically conscious and active citizens that the rest of the American society could trust and embrace.

“Fathered in some considerable part by the vision of the sightless Jimmie Sakamoto,”[29] the JACL had the steady support of the editor of the Japanese-American Courier. Years later, Sakamoto reminisced that at the conclusion of the 1930 Seattle conference “nothing could hold back the tears that welled up as Auld Lang Syne swelled the throats of those gathered…it was the beginning of a movement whose rapid growth no one could visualize at the time. The seed of Americanism was already beginning to take root.”[30]

The Japanese-American Citizens League continued to grow, and in 1936 Sakamoto was chosen as the organization’s second National President. Bill Hosokawa worked as a journalist on the Courier during this period and he later wrote that the decision to make Sakamoto President “was acclaimed universally as overdue recognition for nearly a decade of stubborn, unremitting, unrewarding labor on behalf of the Citizens League movement.”[31] Hosokawa would further elaborate that “during those years it was impossible to distinguish between Jimmie Sakamoto’s twin roles as newspaper publisher and JACL mainspring. He had founded ‘The Courier’ as the voice of the Nisei and in his mind the JACL movement was the Nisei movement.”[32]

A weekly publication, Sakamoto’s Japanese-American Courier reported that by 1940 it served Seattle’s “Japanese community of some 10,000 residents in the city and vicinity, and [went to] 4,275 readers.”[33] While these numbers indicate success in distribution, they do not reveal the hardships endured by the Sakamoto family as Jimmie and Misao struggled to keep the newspaper in business. Financially, the Courier was never a booming success and during the first years it experienced some “dark days” as the Great Depression swept across the country.[34] In the span of two months during 1931, the Japanese American community in Seattle saw two of its banks close their doors, taking with them the savings of many residents. Sakamoto later recounted “being penniless but for the 35 cents my wife had in her purse” and seeing his “parents savings swept away with the bank.”[35]

The Courier was more than a newspaper. Sakamoto formed and supported Courier Leagues’ for the youth in the greater Seattle area. The Leagues provided Japanese-American young people the opportunity to participate in organized sports such as baseball, softball and football. In the University of Washington’s Special Collections, dozens of letters from loyal subscribers to the Courier and participants in the Leagues can be found in James Sakamoto’s Papers expressing gratitude and admiration for the efforts of Sakamoto and his newspaper. This correspondence is an example of the positive reception Sakamoto received during the pre-war years.

World War II

At the same time Sakamoto was building up his reputation as “an indefatigable fighter for the rights of the Nisei” on one side of the Pacific, tensions were rising across the water.[36] Japan’s invasion and occupation of Manchuria in 1931 and later invasion of China severely strained relations with the United States. Negative perceptions of Japanese people living in America were heightened by these events. Questions again arose concerning loyalty. While James Sakamoto was strongly pro-American, he had been consistently hesitant to openly condemn Japan’s political tactics. That changed when Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor. With the opening line of the Japanese-American Courier’s first edition following the attack on December 7, 1941, Sakamoto completely changed course:

“The dastardly and treacherous attack on the United States by air and naval forces of Japan last Sunday absolutely absolves the resident Japanese in this country and their American-born children from any consideration they may ever have owed to the Japanese Empire…We are confident we can say without fear of successful contradiction that this is the sentiment, almost 100 per cent [of the Japanese-American people].”[37]

Sakamoto would go on to explain how the people of Japanese descent in the U.S. had become increasingly less sympathetic towards the Japanese government over the past few years as their actions became increasingly militaristic and expansionist. He also assured that “Tokio can count on the open, active, and all-out opposition” of Nisei and Issei, announcing that “the die has been cast and the game will be played to the bitter end until the inevitable result is obtained and the present Japanese government is beaten to its knees.”[38] Fiery and resolute, Sakamoto’s editorial was widely praised by Japanese-Americans as “wonderfully making known our stand in this emergency.”[39]

But the editorial did little to calm the mounting hysteria among whites on the West Coast as mainstream newspapers fanned fears of Japanese spies and saboteurs. As rumors spread that the government was preparing to round up all persons of Japanese descent, James Sakamoto worked frantically to prove the loyalty of his people. He compiled a massive amount of documentation illustrating the economic value that the Japanese-American community of Seattle people had to their city.[40] He also travelled with a number of other JACL leaders to San Francisco to discuss the organization’s stance should the government order evacuation. Sakamoto would later recount to Bill Hosokawa that “while there was sadness in the hearts of everyone there, not a dissenting voice was raised to fight the [potential] evacuation.”[41] In an odd, twisted way, the JACL members at this conference agreed that participating without complaint in their own incarceration would be the ultimate show of loyalty to the American people and government. James Sakamoto was in full agreement with this sentiment and proudly wrote that this “was the first test of their Americanism and we came thru with ‘flying colors’.”[42]

Two months after Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066. By June more than 110,000 Japanese (more than 70% of them American citizens) had been forced from their homes into internment camps.[43] In mid-May of 1942, James and Misao Sakamoto, along with their three daughters Marie, Marcia and Denise were transported to Puyallup’s Camp Harmony with about 7,000 other Japanese-American from Seattle and Tacoma.[44] Much to the dismay of loyal subscribers, The Japanese-American Courier published its last issue earlier that month. Many sent in small donations and messages expressing their gratitude for all that the Sakamotos had done for their community. James Sakamoto always replied in the same humble fashion, stating that he was unsure if he merited the thankfulness of the writer, and that “your support at times like this shames me into feeling for not having done more for the people at large during normal times.”[45] He would also echo the sentiment of the JACL meeting in San Francisco, insisting that going peacefully to the camps would be the best way to aid the American war effort.

In Camp Harmony, James Sakamoto and several other leading members of the JACL were chosen to be part of a governing board for the inmates. This board, named the Evacuee Administration Headquarters (EAH), served as the middlemen between the Japanese inmates and the Wartime Civilian Control Administration (WCCA) and the center manager, J.J. McGovern.[46] The EAH also acted as a police force, enforcing curfews and issuing various rules and strict regulations for the camps. While Sakamoto deemed this relationship with Army camp officials as the best way to show loyalty and support of the American government, other inmates were not convinced.

Soon, some of these disgruntled evacuees began to voice their unhappiness with the leadership of Camp Harmony. These criticisms led to a camp-wide vote to determine the confidence in Sakamoto and the other JACL leaders of the camp. Although an overwhelming majority apparently voted in favor of retaining the current leadership (4,064 out of 5,545 voting)[47], a substantial number were opposed to the Evacuation Administrative Headquarters and challenged the validity of the plebiscite. Kenji Okuda, a young man incarcerated in Camp Harmony, wrote Norio Higano claiming that the “manner of holding the election was so undemocratic,” saying that it was essentially a “Hitler plebiscite in a Japanese Socialist camp set up by a democracy to be run as a dictatorship.”[48] Anger and resentment toward their situation bubbled up throughout the camp.

As a camp official and collaborator with the government, James Sakamoto was the target of much of this ill will, in stark contrast to the community veneration that he had enjoyed prior to incarceration. For Mr. Sakamoto, “it was a period of disillusion.” When the residents of Camp Harmony were ordered to move once again in Fall to Minidoka Relocation Center in Idaho, Sakamoto decided to get himself out of the awkward position. In Minidoka he “quietly bowed out of camp politics”[49] and slipped into background for the duration of the incarceration period. Records of his doings at Camp Minidoka are sparse in comparison to his well-documented days in Camp Harmony.

Quiet Life

Nor did he resume political activism when the internees were released and the Sakamotos returned to Seattle. Although friends contacted him and Misao and urged the couple to restart the Courier, they declined. Jimmie later explained that “we never made any profit out of the Courier, only a bare existence,” and “knowing what capital it takes and looking over the second generation field, it would have been a foolhardy attempt to revive the paper.”[50] Additionally, Sakamoto removed himself from active duty in the JACL. In correspondence with Bill Hosokawa, Sakamoto claimed he was still in touch with acquaintances from the days prior the war, and that “in past, publicity was fine for The Courier and the JACL, but now I am just an ordinary individual or less, and I am enjoying it immensely.”[51]

Where once he had occupied the front lines of the Nisei’s fight for acceptance and inclusion, now Sakamoto was content to let others carry the burden of activism. He took a job with St. Vincent de Paul Salvage Bureau’s telephone solicitation campaign after his priest and close friend Father L.H. Tibesar convinced him in 1955 to accept the position. Under Sakamoto’s direction the Salvage Bureau expanded into a successful organization and Sakamoto’s superior was quoted saying “I was doubtful as to what a blind man could do in this 3 ½ acre madhouse…but Jimmie’s coming raised the standards of personnel performance and office practice.”[52] This was no surprise to anyone who knew James Sakamoto. With three young daughters in school and a steady income, Sakamoto admitted he was satisfied with the normalness of his life and did not miss the intensity of being the standard bearer of the Nisei cause.

Then in mid-1955, Bill Hosokawa, writer for the Pacific Citizen and longtime friend of Sakamoto, came calling, hoping to interview the second National President of the JACL for the 25th Anniversary edition of the organization’s newspaper. The two exchanged multiple letters concerning Sakamoto’s life which went into great detail about Sakamoto’s many hopes and visions for the Nisei. The general amicability of the correspondence and Sakamoto’s lengthy answers put on display the kind of good-natured and passionate person that James Sakamoto still was at this stage in his life.

Mere weeks before the release of Hosokawa’s article however, Jimmie Sakamoto was dead, struck down by an automobile early in the morning of December 3rd, 1955. The 25th “Silver Jubilee Edition” of The Pacific Citizen was turned into a memorial to Sakamoto, featuring Hosokawa’s biographical article and other remembrances of the famous boxer-turned-editor and his many contributions to the Japanese-American community.

Despite the criticisms of a later generation of Asian American activists, who for good reasons had trouble identifying with the accomodationist tactics that Sakamoto urged, it is impossible not to admire the courage and dedication of the blind boxer who returned to Seattle in 1927 and fought quietly and effectively so that Nisei might be recognized as true American citizens. “A dedicated fighter for the rights of the underdog, the under-privileged, the unchampioned,”[53] his friend Bob Okasaki eulogized in 1955. It is the right way to remember Jimmie Sakamoto.

copyright (c) Andy Marzano 2013
HSTAA 498 Autumn 2012


[1] Bill Hosokawa. “Blind, But With A Vision.” Pacific Citizen - Silver Jubilee [San Francisco] 23 Dec. 1955: Print. Page 1.

[2] Dr. Thomas Yatabe. “Gone, But Not Forgotten.” Pacific Citizen. 9 December 1955. Print. Page 3.

[3] Grant, Nicole. “White Supremacy and Alien Land Laws of Washington State. Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project.

[4] Personal correspondence between Sakamoto and Hosokawa (UW Libraries Special Collections: James Sakamoto Papers, Box 1, Folder 1-1 – 1955)

[5] Japanese Immigration Hearings Before The Committee on Immigration and Naturalization: House of Representatives: Sixty-Sixth Congress: Second Session, July 26-August 3, 1920. Page 1057.

[6] James Sakamoto, Untitled Memoir, m.s., n.d. UW Libraries: Special Collections. James Sakamoto Papers: Box 20, Folder 20. Page 5.

[7] Ibid., Page 1200.

[8] Ibid., Page 1200.

[9] Ibid., Page 1201.

[10] Hosokawa, “Blind, But With A Vision.” Page 1.

[11] Personal correspondence between Sakamoto and Hosokawa, UW Libraries Special Collections: James Sakamoto Papers, Box 1, Folder 1-1.

[12] Sakamoto, Untitled Memoir. Page 7.

[13] Ibid. Page 2.

[14] Hosokawa, “Blind, But With A Vision.” Page 1-2.

[15] Personal correspondence between Sakamoto and Hosokawa. UW Libraries Special Collections: James Sakamoto Papers, Box 1, Folder 1-1.

[16] Ibid., Page 2.

[17] Ibid., Page 2.

[18] Ibid, Page 3-4

[19] The Japanese-American Courier. 1 January 1928. Page 4.

[20] Hosokawa, “Blind, But With A Vision.” Page 7.

[21] The Japanese-American Courier. 1 January 1928. Page 1.

[22] Personal correspondence between Sakamoto and Hosokawa, UW Libraries Special Collections: James Sakamoto Papers, Box 1, Folder 1-1.

[23] Ibid. Page 3.

[24] The Japanese-American Courier. 1 January 1928. Page 1.

[25] Personal correspondence between Sakamoto and Hosokawa, UW Libraries Special Collections: James Sakamoto Papers, Box 1, Folder 1-1.

[26] Ibid. page 2-3.

[27] Ibid. Page 2.

[28] Personal correspondence between Sakamoto and Hosokawa, UW Libraries Special Collections: James Sakamoto Papers, Box 1, Folder 1-1.

[29] Hosokawa, “Blind, But With A Vision.” Page 2-3.

[30] Sakamoto, Untitled Memoir. Page 17.

[31] Hosokawa, “Blind, But With A Vision.” Page 2.

[32] Hosokawa, “Blind, But With A Vision.” Page 4.

[33] Ruth Kamzama to Mr. M. Maher. 26 April 1940. Letter. James Sakamoto Papers. UW Libraries – Special Collections.

[34] Sakamoto, Untitled Memoir. Page 4.

[35] Ibid. Page 4-5.

[36] Okazaki, Bob. “Fighter for Unchampioned.” Pacific Citizen [San Francisco] 9 Dec 1955. Print.

[37] Sakamoto, James Y. The Japanese-American Courier. 12 December 1941.

[38] Sakamoto, James Y. The Japanese-American Courier. 12 December 1941. Page 1-2.

[39] Harry Matsunaka to Mr. Sakamoto. 17 March 1942. Letter. James Sakamoto Papers. UW Libraries – Special Collections.

[40] Hosokawa, Bill. “Blind, But With A Vision.” Pacific Citizen. December 1955. Print.

[41] Personal correspondence between Sakamoto and Hosokawa, UW Libraries Special Collections: James Sakamoto Papers, Box 1, Folder 1-1.

[42] Ibid., Page 18.

[43] Mudrock, Theresa. Camp Harmony Exhibit. University of Washington Libraries.

[44] Ibid. Evacuation from Seattle Link.

[45] Mr. James Sakamoto to Fife Girls’ Club (April 21, 1942)

[46] Camp Harmony Mail. James Sakamoto Papers. Box 10-Folder 11. UW Libraries – Special Collections.

[47] “Camp Harmony Newsletter.” 17 June 1942. Volume 1: Issue 7. Camp Harmony Exhibit. UW Libraries.

[48] Kenji Okuda to Norio Higano. 24 June 1942. Higano Family Papers. Box 1: Folders 9-11. UW Libraries, Special Collections.

[49] Hosokawa, “Blind, But With A Vision.” Page 6.

[50] Personal correspondence between Sakamoto and Hosokawa, UW Libraries Special Collections: James Sakamoto Papers, Box 1, Folder 1-1. Page 4.

[51] Ibid. Page 5.

[52] Hosokawa, “Blind, But With A Vision.” Page 6.

[53] Okazaki, Bob. “Fighter for Unchampioned.” Pacific Citizen [San Francisco] 9 Dec 1955. Print

After graduating from Seattle's Franklin High School, Sakamoto moved to New York where he worked for a newspaper and became a professional boxer. UW Libraries – Special Collections.

Jimmie Sakamoto in 1954 with a colleague at St. Vincent de Paul store. UW Libraries – Special Collections.

(Click on images to view)


Osama and Tsuchi Sakamoto, Jimmie's parents. Undated. James Sakamoto Papers. UW Libraries –Special Collections: Accession Number 1609-001. Box 7, Folder 7-26.


Congressional Hearing 1920

Tacoma News Tribune greeted the House Immigration Committee on July 27, 1920 (above) at the start of hearings that investigated Japanese Americans on the West Coast.

Below Seattle Times photo of 17-year-old Jimmie Sakamoto and Dorothea Okajima who had also testified at the hearing, both stressing their American patriotism. Click to read the July 27, 1920 article.

 

Mine Sakamoto, Jimmie's older sister is above right.

For addition information about the 1920 campaign against Japanese and the passage of the state's Alien Land laws see:

The 1920 Anti-Japanese Crusade and Congressional  Hearings
by Doug Blair.

White Supremacy and Alien Land Laws of Washington State
by Nicole Grant


Japanese American Courier

The first issue of the Japanese American Courier appeared on January 1, 1928. It is reproduced here. Click to read.

After reviving the Seattle Progressive Citizen's League, Sakamoto and Clarence Arai helped launch the Japanese American Citizens League.

1936 National JACL Convention in Seattle” James Sakamoto Papers. UW Libraries –Special Collections: Accession Number 1609-001. Box 7, Folder 7-26.


Internment

Sakamoto's editorial in the December 12, 1941 issue of the Courier denounced the "dastardly and treacherous" attack on Pearl Harbor and stressed Japanese American patriotism. Click to read.

Puyallup Assembly Center Pass for James Sakamoto. 29 June 1942. James Sakamoto Papers. UW Libraries –Special Collections: Accession Number 1609-001. Box 10, Folder 10-24.

Camp Harmony News-Letter. 14 May 1942, Puyallup, WA, Vol. 1, No. 3 – UW Libraries, Special Collections, James Sakamoto Papers, Box 10, Folder 10-24.

.

Petition to James Sakamoto, chief supervisor at Camp Harmony, protesting the methods of a recent vote of confidence his leadership of the camp, June 23, 1942. UW Libraries – Special Collections.

 


Return to Seattle

Taking a job with St Vincent de Paul, Sakamoto ran the Salvage bureau. Pacific Citizen: Silver Jubilee Edition. 23 Dec 1955. Page 6. James Sakamoto Papers. UW Libraries – Special Collections. Box 1, Folder 1-3.

 

 

The JACL's Pacific Citizen reported the death of the League's second president in the December 9, 1955 edition.

Much of the 50th anniversary Silver Jubilee edition of the Pacific Citizen was devoted to commerating the life and accomplishments of Jimmie Sakamoto. Click to read Bill Hosakawa's detailed biographical article.

 


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