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Highland Elementary renamed Harada in honor of the pioneering Riverside family

The small ceremony included school district officials, Taiko drummers, and Harada family members.

Naomi Harada addresses the crowd at the Highland to Harada renaming event.

In June 2021, the Riverside Unified School District board of trustees voted unanimously to change the name of Highland Elementary School in recognition and honor of The Harada family. The Haradas have roots in Riverside dating back to 1905 when Jukichi and Ken moved to town with their son, Matsa Atsu. The family opened and ran The Washington Restaurant for many years.

The contributions of the Harada family extend beyond their early arrival and successful restaurant. In 1916, The Haradas purchased a home on Lemon Street after crowded conditions in the boarding house where they were staying took the life of their son Tadao. The purchase of the house resulted in protests by neighbors who claimed that the Haradas were not eligible for property ownership under California’s Alien Land Law of 1913, which prohibited Asian immigrants from owning property. The State sued the Haradas and lost in Superior Court because the Harada children had rights under the United States Constitution, and the Alien Land law was a 14th amendment violation. The Haradas remained at Lemon Street, grew their family, and offered boarding for other Japanese immigrants in their home.

In 1941, in response to the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the United States government issued Executive Order 9066, which relegated US residents of Japanese ancestry to internment camps. The Harada family was sent to three separate camps across the western states. They eventually petitioned to be united at the Topaz War Relocation Center in Utah. Jukichi and Ken both died in internment at Topaz.

After the war, Sumi Harada, the youngest of the Harada children, returned to the Lemon Street home, which a family friend took care of in their absence. She opened the house to other Japanese Americans as transitional housing for those who lost their properties and businesses during internment.

The family maintained the house until 2004 when they donated it to the City of Riverside. The Harada House is a National Historic Landmark. The Museum of Riverside maintains the property until funds can be raised for restoration.

At the Highland to Harada Elementary School renaming ceremony, Naomi, granddaughter of Jukichi and Ken, addressed the small crowd. She gave a short history of the family and the importance of Riverside to her family. She recognized the hardships of her grandparents and their overwhelming desire to succeed in America, even when many of their challenges stemmed from the country’s government into which they were trying so hard to assimilate.

“America has come a long way!” Naomi exclaimed. She then cautioned that the conditions and attitudes that would put her family in camps have not been wholly eliminated and that we must actively fight for justice and inclusion.

Harada Elementary School is at 700 Highlander Drive. The Harada House is at 3356 Lemon Street. You can read more about the Harada family in the book The House on Lemon Street: Japanese Pioneers and the American Dream by Mark Rawitsch and at the Museum of Riverside website.