On the afternoon of April 15th, detainees at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington filled the narrow triangle that serves as the facility’s recreation area. In a carefully choreographed movement, they marched into formation to the universal signal of distress. This act of creative resistance coincided with a hunger strike organized by detainees at the privately-run detention facility.
*Update: registration for this teach-in is now closed. If you would like to be notified about future teach-in dates, sign up for Densho’s eNews.
Join us for a virtual teach-in that will deepen your understanding of American xenophobia and racism, using Japanese American WWII incarceration and the current crisis of immigrant detention as case studies. This interactive learning experience is designed for teachers, high school or college students, community leaders, and individuals simply looking to expand their knowledge and deepen their commitment to action.
When we think of Japanese American memoirs of the concentration camp experience, most of us think of a handful of older classic titles first: Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James Houston’s Farewell to Manzanar, Miné Okubo’s Citizen 13660, Monica Sone‘s Nisei Daughter, and Yoshiko Uchida’s Desert Exile. They are certainly the most cited, the most anthologized, the most written about and the most taught. All are well worth the read, but many other memoirs published since provide a much broader range of experiences and perspectives. Here are a dozen of Densho Content Director Brian Niiya’s favorites from the last twenty years.
Earlier this month, three Kentucky pastors filed a lawsuit against a statewide lockdown to limit the spread of COVID-19 — citing Fred Korematsu’s Supreme Court case to paint the order as part of a long history of “egregious violations of fundamental rights” during “times of public panic and fear.” They’re not the only ones. Just last week, the hyper-conservative One America News Network declared stay-at-home orders “the greatest attack on individual liberty in this republic since the Korematsu decision.” Pundits and anti-lockdown protestors around the country have likened life under quarantine to Japanese American incarceration, Jim Crow laws, and even slavery.
Densho is pleased to announce a new digital genealogy series with Linda Harms Okazaki, noted expert in Japanese American genealogy. All sessions will be held on Zoom and advance registration is required. The initial webinar will be held on April 30th, with subsequent webinars to be held every two to three weeks (check back soon — we’ll update this post with dates and times as they are finalized).
We’re fortunate today to have access to hundreds of testimonies from Nisei elders who were incarcerated as children during WWII. But the perspective captured in these oral histories is that of an adult looking back on decades-old memories, rather than a child or teen describing contemporaneous experiences. The journals and writing assignments they left behind, however — composed while they were students in concentration camp schools — offer a unique glimpse at how Japanese American youth thought and felt about their life behind barbed wire.
As we navigate this new world of mandatory home time, many of us are finding ourselves suddenly having to set up makeshift schools for our kiddos, engage students online, or maybe brush up on our own history education to fill the extra time on our hands. Here are some resources from Densho and a few of our partners to help you do just that.
In an op-ed for The Washington Post this week, former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang urged Asian Americans to combat a recent surge in anti-Asian hate by “embrac[ing] and show[ing] our American-ness in ways we never have before.” He praised Japanese Americans who volunteered for military service from WWII concentration camps “to demonstrate that they were Americans” — conveniently ignoring the state violence that narrowed their choices, and erasing those who were enlisted against their will — and concludes that Asian Americans who face racism today should likewise “show without a shadow of a doubt that we are Americans who will do our part for our country in this time of need.”
On March 27th, Japanese Americans across the country are joining frontline communities in urging Washington State Governor Jay Inslee to immediately release all immigrants from the Northwest Detention Center to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We know that health and safety are impossible to guarantee inside detention, because our families faced epidemics and medical neglect during WWII incarceration. Together, we say “STOP REPEATING HISTORY,” close the camps, and keep everyone, including immigrants, safe during this pandemic.
On February 27, 1942, the Seattle School Board accepted the forced resignations of 27 Nisei women working as clerks for the school district. Four decades later, those women fought for, and won, a resolution to apologize and compensate them for their wartime dismissal. It was a small but powerful early victory for the Japanese American redress movement — and an indication of more to come.
- Epidemics in American Concentration Camps: From the “White Plague” to COVID-19
- Announcing a Virtual Teach-In on the History of Xenophobia (and what we can do to combat it)
- Read These “Camp” Memoirs for a First-Person Look at Japanese American WWII Incarceration
- We Can’t Believe This Actually Needs to Be Said, But No, Quarantine Is Not the Same Thing as Incarceration
- Announcing a New Digital Genealogy Series
- after camp
- book review
- camp life
- current events
- Densho statement
- film review
- hidden histories
- In memoriam
- open letter
- oral history
- Pacific Northwest
- photo essay
- popular culture