In 1942, there were 121 Nisei, or second generation Japanese American, USC students. One of them, Setsuko Matsunaga Nishi, was an extremely outspoken advocate for Japanese American rights. She wrote several opinion articles to the Daily Trojan in the three months between Pearl Harbor and her internment, aiming to highlight the dedication she and other Nisei had to defending America. She wrote, “we are real Americans. What else could we be? American born, American educated, loving American tolerance, justice, and equality.”
Nishi also wired a telegram directly to president FDR himself, just days before he signed executive order 9066. In her telegram, she called the president’s actions an “undemocratic curtailment of constitutional rights and civil liberties.”
Hitoshi Sageshima was also interned during his time at USC, and his nephew gives us context as to why it was particularly devastating to first generation Japanese Americans for their kids to be forced out of school. None of the 121 interned Nisei students were welcome back to USC after their release.