December 13, 2022

Roger Daniels passed away on December 9th, shortly after celebrating his 95th birthday. Daniels was regarded by many to be the pre-eminent historian of his generation on the Japanese American experience and was an important friend and advisor to Densho, especially after his move to Seattle.

His first book, The Politics of Prejudice: The Anti-Japanese Movement in California and the Struggle for Japanese Exclusion (1962) remains the standard work on the anti-Japanese movement, and his subsequent work on the wartime incarceration—particularly the causal factors and the legal challenges in works such as Concentration Camps, U.S.A.: Japanese Americans and World War II (1971), Asian America: Chinese and Japanese in the United States since 1850 (1988) and The Japanese American Cases: The Rule of Law in Time of War (2013)—remain key works in the field. He also played a key behind the scenes role in the Redress Movement and was a beloved mentor, advisor, and friends to multiple generations of students, colleagues, and community members.

Densho Founding Director Tom Ikeda presents Roger Daniels with a surprise birthday cake at a December 2, 2006 event for Karen Ishizuka’s book, Lost and Found: Reclaiming the Japanese American Incarceration.

Densho’s Founding Executive Director, Tom Ikeda, recalled Roger’s contributions to Densho and to his own thinking about the importance of Japanese American history: 

“When Roger moved to the Seattle area, Densho and I benefited greatly from his knowledge, advice, and friendship. He was a generous man who stressed the importance of educating others with historical thinking. One lunch as we discussed what future generations would know about the WWII Japanese American incarceration, he shared the following words: ‘Liberty, like justice, must be won, and re-won, from generation to generation.’ These words have guided me, as have many of Roger’s ideas.”

Thank you, Roger, for your decades of service to deepening public understanding of WWII Japanese American incarceration. 

Header photo: A still of Roger Daniels taken from an interview with filmmaker Frank Abe for his 2000 documentary, Conscience and the Constitution.

Watch oral history interviews with Roger Daniels in the Densho Digital Repository.