Just inside the Chance Avenue Gate Entrance in front of the Commerce Building stands the Fresno Assembly Center Memorial in remembrance of the 120,000 loyal Americans and permanent residents, all of Japanese ancestry living primarily on the West Coast in 1942, who were forcibly uprooted from their homes and imprisoned in one of America's ten Assembly Centers during World War II on the false charge of being a "national security risk" following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
Thousands of these Japanese Americans from the Central Valley passed through the Fresno Fairgrounds gates on their way to internment camps in 1942. There were a total of 5,344 local Japanese Americans that were incarcerated at the Fresno Fairgrounds for five months before being transferred to the permanent internment camps. After a thorough investigation by a Congressional Commission in 1981, Congress passed the Civil Liberty Act of 1988, which required the President to send a Letter of Apology and a token penalty Redress check of $20,000 to those who were still living.
The sacrifices of those internees are remembered with the Fresno Assembly Center Memorial that houses the original California Registered Historical Landmark No. 934 marker as its centerpiece. This Memorial lists in bronze the names of all who were incarcerated here and the storyboards with photos and personal commentaries by former Valley internees and their families tell the personal tales of the tragic violation of the Constitutional Rights of these American citizens. As philosopher and poet George Santayana stated, "Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.” The Fresno Assembly Center Memorial is designed to help our community to remember this tragic past event and not be condemned to repeat it.
Fresno County is the only county that had two assembly centers. Funding for the $240,000 project was provided by a grant from the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program and by contributions from Friends of the Big Fresno Fair, Fresno County Office of Education, Sun-Maid Growers of California and others. Individual donors also sponsored hundreds of commemorative bricks that line the perimeter of the Memorial. The local Japanese American Citizens League has continuously provided docents for the Memorial Site throughout certain days of The Big Fresno Fair.