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.
The name Miller Freeman has been in the news this past week after a Day of Remembrance installation at Bellevue College by artist Erin Shigaki was defaced by a school administrator. Shigaki’s art installation, “Never Again Is Now,” depicts two Japanese American children in a WWII concentration camp, and an accompanying artist statement described the impact and ongoing legacy of Japanese American incarceration.
Despite torrential rains in Tacoma this weekend, Tsuru for Solidarity supporters showed up in droves to raise their voices in opposition to immigrant detention. They gathered outside the Northwest Detention Center, where up to 1,500 individuals at a time are held as they await the outcomes of their immigration trials. Sometimes that wait last years in this for-profit facility where detainees have staged hunger strikes to protest the poor quality of medical care and food and inadequate access to legal support.
We’re gearing up for our Day of Remembrance, Day of Action at Northwest Detention Center on February 23rd, and we hope to see you there! This event commemorates the 78th anniversary of the Executive Order that incarcerated 120,000 citizens and immigrants of Japanese descent during WWII. We believe the best way to honor that history is by fighting to end detention sites today, which is why we’re partnering with Tsuru For Solidarity, La Resistencia, and Seattle JACL to say #StopRepeatingHistory and #ShutDownNWDC!
The exclusion of Japanese Americans from the West Coast during WWII came to an official end on January 2, 1945. By the end of the year, nine of the ten War Relocation Authority concentration camps had been shut down — although Japanese American “renunciants” and Japanese Latin Americans slated for deportation to Japan remained imprisoned even after the war’s end. On the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the end of Japanese American incarceration, we take a look back at some of the images from this moment in history.
- after camp
- book review
- camp life
- current events
- Densho statement
- film review
- guest post
- hidden histories
- In memoriam
- open letter
- oral history
- Pacific Northwest
- photo essay
- popular culture