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Guide to the Norman Y. Mineta Papers, 1975-1996
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Collection Details
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Norman Y. Mineta Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1975-1996
    Collection number: 96.370
    Origination: Mineta, Norman Y.
    Extent: ca. 45 linear feet.
    Repository: Japanese American National Museum (Los Angeles, Calif.)
    Los Angeles, California 90012
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    Collection is open for research by appointment. Please contact the Japanese American National Museum's Manabi & Sumi Hirasaki National Resource Center at (213) 830-5680 or hnrc@janm.org to schedule an appointment. The Resource Center hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

    Publication Rights

    All requests for permission to publish, reproduce, or quote from materials in this collection must be submitted to the Hirasaki National Resource Center at the Japanese American National Museum (hnrc@janm.org).

    Preferred Citation

    [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 1 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 2 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.
    2The term 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.