Overlooked No More: Mitsuye Endo, a Name Linked to Justice for Japanese-Americans


Overlooked is a series of obituaries about remarkable people whose deaths, beginning in 1851, went unreported in The Times.

It was January 1942, and Japanese-American civil servants in California were alarmed. Within weeks of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, the state government had sent an invasive questionnaire to its employees of Japanese descent.

Did they speak Japanese? Had they ever visited Japan? Were they members of any Japanese organizations?

Anti-Japanese sentiment was high, and the survey, with its accusatory tone, seemed bent on portraying the workers as untrustworthy.

Mitsuye Endo, a 22-year-old typist with the Department of Motor Vehicles, dutifully answered the questions, and that spring she was fired, along with dozens of other Nisei, or second-generation Japanese-Americans, who worked for the state.

Although born in the United States, Nisei were accused of holding Japanese citizenship as well, a sign to many Americans of potential disloyalty. Their attending Buddhist schools and their ability to read and write Japanese raised suspicions only further.

“We were given a piece of paper saying we were suspended because we were of Japanese ancestry,” Endo said in the only interview she ever gave,

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