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Historic Congressional Committee Hearings and Reports

This guide will point you to publications of the United States Congress (House of Representatives and Senate) available online and in libraries.

The Tolan Committee

One of many profound effects of the economic troubles of the 1930's was the interstate migration of large numbers of people in search of employment. This mass movement in itself caused social and economic changes. On April 22, 1940, the House established the Select Committee to Investigate Interstate Migration of Destitute Citizens to study the migration, the social and economic needs of the poor, and the existing government programs to meet those needs in order to gain better understanding of the situation and its implications and to aid Congress in enacting remedial legislation. John H. Tolan of California was appointed chairman. Between July 1940 and March 1941, the committee held public hearings in various regions of the country at which 371 witnesses testified; it presented its final report on April 3, 1941.

While conducting the study, the committee became aware of another large-scale migration that was occurring. Increasingly, workers were moving to manufacturing centers in search of employment in defense industries. Accordingly, on March 31, 1941, the House passed a resolution continuing the select committee under the title of Select Committee Investigating National Defense Migration to study the ramifications of the defense-oriented migration. The committee conducted public hearings around the country from June 1941 to September 1942, including hearings on the West Coast in February and March 1942 to consider the problems inherent in the proposed relocation of enemy aliens and Japanese-Americans. The committee issued eight reports relating to national defense migration and the evacuation effort, culminating with the final report on January 8, 1943 (H. Rept. 3, 78th Cong., 1st sess., Serial 10760).

Excerpted from the National Archives webpage on Tolan Committee records.


Representative John Tolan, a Democrat from Oakland, California, was a New Deal liberal who had entered Congress in 1935, and he headed the committee that began in 1940 as the Select Committee to Investigate the Interstate Migration of Destitute Citizens. Thus, the Committee's initial hearings centered on the problems that refugees from the Dust Bowl encountered as they moved west. By 1941, as workers flocked to military production jobs with the nation preparing for war, the Committee changed its focus and its name to the House Select Committee Investigating National Defense Migration. The other members of the Tolan Committee were John Sparkman (D-Alabama), Laurence Arnold (D-Illinois), Carl Curtis (R-Nebraska), and George Bender (R-Ohio). Sparkman was also a New Dealer, albeit a virulent opponent of civil rights for African Americans. Curtis and Bender, both elected to the House in 1938, believed President Roosevelt and the New Deal to be far too liberal.

As discussion increased in early 1942 about the removal of Japanese Americans from the West Coast, some liberals, including Carey McWilliams, believed that a sympathetic Committee chairperson such as Tolan could help forestall the most extreme anti-Nikkei actions. The Committee held hearings in San Francisco on February 21, 23, and March 12, in Portland on February 26, in Seattle on February 28 and March 2, and in Los Angeles on March 6 and 7. During the early sessions much of the testimony centered on whether any group of people should be removed from their homes en masse. In the later sessions, as the policy of removal became a fait accompli, some testimony shifted to the logistics of removal, and how to make it more humane. In all four cities, but especially in San Francisco and Los Angeles, the Committee took testimony not only regarding Japanese Americans but also regarding German and Italian nationals on the West Coast. For example, the Nobel Prize-winning author Thomas Mann, a refugee from Nazism, spoke about German expatriates in California, but made no reference to proposals to remove Japanese Americans from the West Coast.

Excerpted from the Densho Encyclopedia

The Select Committee to Investigate the Interstate Migration of Destitute Citizens was appointed in April of 1940 "to inquire into the interstate migration of destitute citizens, to study, survey, and investigate the social and economic needs, obtaining all facts possible in relation thereto which would not only be of public interest but which would aid the House in enacting remedial legislation."  Its term was to expire with a report due un April of 1941, but the term was extended until January, 1943, and the name of the committee was changed to the Select Committee Investigating National Defense Migration.  Hearings after part 10 carried that committee name.  The committee's most famous hearings were parts 29, 30, and 31, which dealt with the removal of Japanese American citizens from the Pacific Coast area and their relocation to internment camps.  The committee was also known as the Tolan Committee after its chair, John H. Tolan.

  • part 1 (New York City hearings, July 29-31, 1940)

  • part 2 (Montgomery hearings, Aug. 14-16, 1940)

  • part 3 (Chicago hearings, Aug. 19-21, 1940)

  • part 4 (Lincoln hearings, Sept. 16-17, 1940)

  • part 5 (Oklahoma City hearings, Sept. 19-20, 1940)

  • part 6 (San Francisco hearings, Sept. 24-25, 1940)

  • part 7 (Los Angeles hearings, Sept. 28, 1940)

  • part 8 (Washington, DC, hearings, Nov. 19, Dec. 2-3, 1940)

  • part 9 (Washington hearings, Dec. 5-6, 9-10, 1940)

  • part 10 (Washington hearings, Dec. 11, 1940 and Feb. 26, 1941)(includes index to parts 1-10)

  • part 11 (Washington hearings, Mar. 24, 1941)

  • part 12 (San Diego hearings, June 12-13, 1941)

  • part 13 (Hartford hearings, June 24-25, 1941)

  • part 14 (Trenton hearings, June 27-28, 1941)

  • part 15 (Baltimore hearings, July 1-2, 1941)

  • part 16 (Washington hearings, July 15-17, 1941)

  • part 17 (Washington hearings, July 18-20, 1941)

  • part 18 (Detroit- Industrial- hearings, Sep. 23-25, 1941)

  • part 19 (Detroit- Agricultural- hearings, Sep. 23-25, 1941)

  • part 20 (Washington hearings, Oct. 28-29, 1941)

  • part 21 (Hastings, NE, hearings, Nov. 24, 1941)

  • part 22 (Omaha, NE, hearings, Nov. 25, 1941)

  • part 23 (St. Louis hearings, Nov. 26-27, 1941)

  • part 24 (Washington hearings on the automobile industry, Dec. 22-23, 1941)

  • part 25 (Washington hearings on civilian morale, Jan. 13-15, 1942)

  • part 26 (Washington hearings on the constitutional rights of destitute citizens of the United States to move from state to state- the Edwards case, Jan. 19, 1942)

  • part 27 (Washington hearings on the manpower of the nation in war production, Feb. 3-4, 11, 1942)

  • part 28 (Washington hearings on the manpower of the nation in war production, Feb. 12-13, 1942)

  • part 29 (San Francisco hearings on the problems of evacuation of enemy aliens and others prohibited from military zones, Feb. 21, 23, 1942)

  • part 30 (Portland and Seattle hearings on the problems of evacuation of enemy aliens and others prohibited from military zones, Feb. 26, 28 and Mar. 2, 1942)

  • part 31 (Los Angeles and San Francisco hearings on the problems of evacuation of enemy aliens and others prohibited from military zones, Mar. 6, 7, and 12, 1942)

  • part 32 (Huntsville hearings, May 7-8, 1942)

  • part 33 (Washington hearings with Florida and New Jersey supplements, May 22 and June 11, 19, 1942)

  • part 34 (Washington hearings, Sept. 15-17, 1942)