IPR is featuring research and some of the many AAPI pioneers who have had an impact on the world today in celebration of AAPI Heritage Month.

Frank Emi was born in Los Angeles on Sept. 23, 1916. Emi was a second-generation Japanese American, also referred to as “Nisei.”

Under Executive Order 9066, Emi and his family were evacuated to Japanese internment camps during World War II. First, they were sent to the Pomona Assembly Center, and three months later were relocated to the Heart Mountain “relocation center” in Wyoming.

In the Japanese internment camps, adults were required to complete “loyalty” questionnaires for the United States government. Several questions asked about respondents’ willingness to serve in combat if drafted. Emi refused to answer the questions as he believed Nisei men should have their rights as American citizens restored before being required to serve in the U.S. military. He urged his peers to also ignore these questions, thus beginning his activism for the rights of Nisei people.

Emi met with Kiyoshi Okamoto, a member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) who advocated for Japanese Americans’ constitutional rights, and formed a group with him called the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee. This group advocated for Nisei civil rights as a precondition for compliance with the military draft. In 1944, Emi was arrested for draft evasion.

After his incarceration, Emi continued his role as an advocate. He was involved in the 1980s movement for Japanese American redress and worked with the Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress organization to educate the public on the resistance movement.

Emi died on Dec. 1, 2010, and was the last surviving member of the Fair Play Committee.


Frank Emi – Densho Encyclopedia

Frank Emi – Stanford Libraries

Frank Emi Room – Northeastern Asian American Cente

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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