Lorraine Bannai Interview Segment 1

Family background (ddr-densho-1000-113-1) - 00:08:33
Quiet dignity and family pride: Japanese cultural values passed down from maternal grandparents (ddr-densho-1000-113-2) - 00:03:54
Influence of paternal grandparents: importance of family, generosity (ddr-densho-1000-113-3) - 00:09:02
An exceptional experience: growing up in Gardena, California surrounded by a large Japanese American community (ddr-densho-1000-113-4) - 00:04:47
Significance of Japanese American leadership and role models in Gardena, California (ddr-densho-1000-113-5) - 00:04:49
Avoiding the pigeonhole of racial stereotypes during school years (ddr-densho-1000-113-6) - 00:05:54
Church lessons: the value of community and thinking critically (ddr-densho-1000-113-7) - 00:08:12
Involvement in the political process through father's campaign (ddr-densho-1000-113-8) - 00:04:12
Learning politics by observing father, not from discussions (ddr-densho-1000-113-9) - 00:03:49
Earliest recollections of incarceration: parents' downplaying of camp experience and its impact (ddr-densho-1000-113-10) - 00:02:31
Vivid memories of the Civil Rights movement, Vietnam War protests, and the racial struggle in the U.S. during junior high school years (ddr-densho-1000-113-11) - 00:06:21
Enjoying high school and consciously avoiding stereotypical role of studious Japanese American girl (ddr-densho-1000-113-12) - 00:06:25
Mother teaches importance of education by example, in pursuit of her own Ph.D. (ddr-densho-1000-113-13) - 00:07:29
An "eye-opening experience": discovering the realities of concentration camps in Asian American Studies courses at college (ddr-densho-1000-113-14) - 00:08:37
Increasing awareness of Japanese American community: "I came from a very unique, special culture that had overcome enormous adversity" (ddr-densho-1000-113-15) - 00:07:20
"Maintaining a connection to the culture" through judo, deciding to go to law school (ddr-densho-1000-113-16) - 00:05:11
Entering University of San Francisco School of Law with "the sense that law could be a vehicle for social change" (ddr-densho-1000-113-17) - 00:04:02
Realities of law school, much-needed support from other minority students (ddr-densho-1000-113-18) - 00:04:47
Alienation as a minority in law school, activism surrounding affirmative action case heightens personal political sense and highlights role models (ddr-densho-1000-113-19) - 00:08:11
"A horrible realization" of injustice of Supreme Court ruling in Korematsu v. US, (1944) (ddr-densho-1000-113-20) - 00:03:53
Coming to understand law as a tool for bettering society, empowered by certain individuals (ddr-densho-1000-113-21) - 00:07:46
Personal growth in law school and feeling shocked upon receiving award at graduation ceremony (ddr-densho-1000-113-22) - 00:06:09
"Conscious of having to be very good," to prove herself as a young, Asian American, female lawyer (ddr-densho-1000-113-23) - 00:08:31
Practicing law with political-minded partners, involvement in redress efforts, meeting Peter Irons (ddr-densho-1000-113-24) - 00:06:28
Explanation of Korematsu v. US (1944), and of new, powerful evidence instigating the reopening of the case (ddr-densho-1000-113-25) - 00:09:21
Opportunity to work on "a case of a lifetime," meeting the "cultural icon" Fred Korematsu (ddr-densho-1000-113-26) - 00:05:50
Explanation of legal procedure used in reopening case, writ of error coram nobis, assessing the risks, and support from the community (ddr-densho-1000-113-27) - 00:06:40
A case for vindication, not money, power of coalition as community comes together seeking redress at the same time (ddr-densho-1000-113-28) - 00:08:00
Taking on the case with optimism, "We had no idea what we were getting into" (ddr-densho-1000-113-29) - 00:03:43
Formation of the original legal team, "a very personal case to all of us" (ddr-densho-1000-113-30) - 00:11:45
Explanation of skepticisms of and optimism for the law, "the law is a fluid institution" (ddr-densho-1000-113-31) - 00:05:36
Impact of gender in group dynamics (ddr-densho-1000-113-32) - 00:01:47
Importance of public education campaign in conjunction with legal efforts, working with Fred Korematsu (ddr-densho-1000-113-33) - 00:07:11
Government offers a pardon, Fred Korematsu stands firm and refuses to accept: "Why should I accept a pardon? ... I should be pardoning the government" (ddr-densho-1000-113-34) - 00:05:52
Supportive Japanese American community provides financial and emotional support for legal team and also appreciation for long-awaited vindication (ddr-densho-1000-113-35) - 00:11:48
Original Supreme Court decision still stands: a continued threat to our civil liberties (ddr-densho-1000-113-36) - 00:04:19
Finally vindicated: a victory for Fred Korematsu, the legal team, and the entire Japanese American community (ddr-densho-1000-113-37) - 00:07:52
Lessons learned from work on Korematsu: critical perspective of the law, value of coalition work, and importance of being a good lawyer (ddr-densho-1000-113-38) - 00:09:04
Life after Korematsu: teaching law, community involvement, passing on lessons of tolerance and social responsibilities to children (ddr-densho-1000-113-39) - 00:05:58
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ddr-densho-1000-113-1 (Legacy UID: denshovh-blorraine-01-0001)

Family background

00:08:33 — Segment 1 of 39

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March 23 & 24, 2000

Densho Visual History Collection


Courtesy of Densho


Lorraine Bannai

Lorraine Bannai Interview

04:11:39 — 39 segments

March 23 & 24, 2000

Seattle, Washington

Sansei female. Born 1955 in Los Angeles, California. Grew up in Gardena, California, surrounded by a large Japanese American community. Influenced by father's role in community and politics, and mother's emphasis on education. Attended University of California, Santa Barbara where she became increasingly aware of Japanese American history, issues of ethnic identity and racial inequality. Attended the University of San Francisco School of Law where she honed her commitment to political and social activism. Only a few years out of law school, she joined a team of lawyers working to reopen the Supreme Court's 1944 decision in Korematsu v. United States. Convicted of violating the exclusion order during World War II, Mr. Korematsu's case went all the way to the Supreme Court where the exclusion and incarceration of Japanese Americans was upheld as constitutional, based on the government's argument of "military necessity." Through a petition for writ of error coram nobis (establishing that the case was premised on errors of fact withheld from the judge and the defense by the prosecution), the legal team reopened the case, provided evidence that the factual underpinnings to the exclusion orders were fraudulent, and successfully had the Korematsu conviction vacated, as well as a handful of other similar convictions. In this interview, Ms. Bannai discusses the coram nobis legal team, the support for the effort among the Japanese American community, and personal lessons gained from being a part of this effort.

Margaret Chon, interviewer; Alice Ito, interviewer; John Pai/Dana Hoshide, videographer


Courtesy of Densho