On Wednesday, October 26th, 2016, the Young Research Library Special Collections presented the inaugural reception of the “Jack and Aiko Herzig Papers” in the Main Conference Room. Preliminary speakers included Melany De La Cruz-Viesca, Dr. Susan E. Parker and Dr. David K. Yoo, who spoke about the historical significance of these documents and welcomed Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga on stage. Herzig was joined by Dr. Valier Matsumoto in conversation, and spoke about her experience collecting the papers as well as her decision to donate the archives to UCLA. Afterwards, there were some quick words from librarian and archivist Majorie Lee and Tam Nguyen on how to access the collection through Special Collections. Below is a summary of the importance of the Herzig Papers.
After joining a group of middle aged Nissei women in New York City, Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga and her progressive-minded peers questioned why the Nissei were imprisoned in concentration camps by the United States Government. She wondered why her foreign-born Japanese sister in New York freely moved on the East Coast, whereas those on the West Coast were ordered to vacate. Later, having moved to Washington DC, Herzig often visited the National Archives to examine documents related to Japanese incarceration. During Wednesday’s inaugural reception for the papers, Herzig confessed that she used her secretarial skills to create a card catalog for the over 30,000 papers she compiled and modestly stated she had no former training as a historian.
Nevertheless, Herzig’s work enabled the public to better understand the injustice treatment of Japanese Americans and served as key evidence during the litigation cases for Korematsu, Hirabayashi, and Japanese American Redress class action lawsuit. The Papers not only assisted research purposes, but helped the Japanese Redress Movement. Aiko and her husband Jack Herzig testified before Congress stating that the Japanese Americans were loyal citizens contrary to the MAGIC Cable intercepts, and conducted research to identify individuals who were eligible for reparations from the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 under Reagan.
She additionally co-edited Speaking Out for Personal Justice, which compiled first hand accounts from Nissei who lived in the camps. Ultimately, Herzig decided to donate her papers to UCLA, because she liked the late professor Don Nakanishi and believed that Los Angeles made an ideal home for her collection, since there were many Asian Americans in California and several quality research institutions located here. Therefore, Herzig contributed a wealth of primary sources and literature that is now accessible for everyone to study a key period of Asian American history. Like Herzig stated, not everyone can come to the National Archives, so it is helpful that they can find the documents nearby in California.
B/W Photo of Jack and Aiko Herzig via Rafu Shimpo