Enduring Democracy:

The Monterey Petition

Enduring Democracy: The Monterey Petition

Enduring Democracy: The Monterey Petition tells the story of the courage and compassion demonstrated by Monterey residents as Japanese Americans return to their hometown after being released from incarceration in the World War II Interment Camps.

Enduring Democracy is a documentary sponsored by the JACL of the Monterey Peninsula that examines how Monterey was one of the only communities that publicly welcomed their Japanese neighbors back from the incarceration centers after World War II. Not only is this of historical importance to the Japanese community and the Monterey Peninsula but it illustrates global themes of diversity, equity and inclusion.

In a dusty filing cabinet in the historic Japanese American Citizens League Hall in Monterey, California, a local historian discovered a 16mm film from 1938, showing the local Japanese Americans having fun at the wharf and playing baseball. It depicted a joyous Japanese American community just before their lives are turned upside down by the events of World War II. Along with this long forgotten film, were the pages of the original signed petition that became the basis for a story and a film that stands as a lesson for all Americans interested in preserving the ideals of our democratic way of life.

As World War II wound down, a significant wave of anti-Japanese sentiment arouse with many campaigns to block Japanese Americans, who had been relocated during the war, from returning to their homes on the West Coast. Kitchen table conversations led to a door-to-door petition drive mobilizing citizens of the Monterey Peninsula to resist prejudice and economically motivated racism to welcome back fellow citizens held in concentration camps where they were held for over 3 years solely due to their Japanese ancestry. 

In 1945, Toni Jackson, who worked as an editor for John Steinbeck wrote the petition, A Democratic Way of Life for All. It stands as the only organized public resistance to the well-funded hate campaign waged against Japanese Americans as they began the fearful return home to suspicious communities. Enduring Democracy: the Monterey Petition explores the motivations of individuals who financed hate campaigns as well as the courage and compassion of the valiant women who spearheaded the carefully thought-out campaign.

The battle was fought in the editorial pages of several newspapers as racists emboldened by Anti-Japanese war propaganda posted full page ads to discourage Japanese Americans from returning to their homes and businesses. Inspired by Mollie Sumida’s letter to the editor written while imprisoned in camp and impervious to threats of violence, residents banded together to get their community to sign Toni Jackson’s petition pledging The Democratic Way of Life for All. 


Trailer of Enduring Democracy: The Monterey Petition, is a film is written and directed by award winning filmmaker, David C. Schendel. 

A panel discussion on the history and significance of the Japanese on the Monterey Peninsula with four distinguished local historians, David Yamada, Sandy Lydon, Geoffrey Dunne, and Tim Thomas, who were all featured on Enduring Democracy.