HAGIWARA, ABE (1919? - 1971?) was the leading founder and first president of Cleveland's Japanese American Citizens League (JACL). 

Hagiwara was born in Alaska. While he was enrolled at the University of Washington, he was interned into the Minidoka Relocation Center. In May 1943, the Cleveland Resettlement Committee brought him and about 2,000 other Japanese Americans to Cleveland. Hagiwara worked as a boys’ work secretary at the Downtown Boys Branch of the YMCA, where he coached basketball and baseball. During his time in Ohio, he earned his BA from FENN COLLEGE

While earning his master’s degree from George Williams College in Chicago, he volunteered at the Japanese American Service Committee (originally the Chicago Resettlers Committee). Additionally, Hagiwara was the Director of Activities and a social worker at the Olivet Institute, a settlement house and community center. At the Institute, he helped form the basketball league that eventually led to the Chicago Nisei Athletic Association. 

Abe served for three terms as the Chicago JACL’s president in 1952, 1953, and 1959. During his first term, he wrote to President Harry S. Truman about the Immigration and Nationality Act. Writing about his mother’s struggle with achieving citizenship, Hagiwara informed Truman about the significance of the Act. Truman passed the law, which reformed the discriminatory provisions in immigration policies. 

On 17 July 1952, Hagiwara became the first Nisei (second-generation Japanese American) to appear before the committee of a major political party. At the Conrad Hilton Hotel, he presented to the Democratic party on behalf of the JACL. Advocating for equal treatment of Japanese Americans in the workplace, Hagiwara argued for fair employment practice legislation at the federal level. Although the FEPC (Fair Employment Practices Committee) was blocked from becoming a permanent federal agency, an altered version of the FEPC – the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission – was passed under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In 1956, the national JACL recognized Hagiwara for his work by awarding him the first JACLer of the Biennium Award, along with Jerry Enomoto.

He was married to Esther Saikai.

Margaret Yuna Kim

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