The Oliver Clubs: Sports and Community in Japanese American Los Angeles


In 1917, a teacher in the Little Tokyo area of Los Angeles named Nellie G. Oliver began sponsoring a social and athetlic club for local Japanese American youth. Over the next twenty-five years, eight boys' clubs and two girls' clubs were formed under the leadership of the remarkable Miss Oliver, who became so interested in the children and their families that she even traveled to Japan in 1925. The Oliver sports teams excelled in baseball, football, basketball and other sports in Japanese Athletic Union league play, producing talented - and often life-long - athletes. In 1961, the Olivers re-formed to memorialize their teacher and mentor with the annual Outstanding Nikkei Athlete of the Year award for Southern California high school athletes of Japanese descent, a tradition that continued for forty years. This collection presents the story of Miss Oliver and the Oliver Clubs through multiple media, including documents such as a club history and team rosters; photographs of Oliver team members at practice and play; and clips from video interviews with several of the surviving Olivers and one of the Oliver Award winners, who is now playing in the WNBA. This Little Tokyo Service Center ( project is made possible, in part, by a grant from the California Council for the Humanities as part of the Council's statewide California Stories Initiative. The Council is an independent non-profit organization and a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. For more information on the Council and the California Stories Initiative, visit Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this online exhibition do not necessarily represent those of the California Council for the Humanities or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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