December 12, 2008

I’ve been watching recently salvaged video files from the 1981 hearings held in Seattle by the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC). After hearing testimonies around the country, this congressional committee recommended redress and a presidential apology for uprooting Japanese Americans and holding them in detention camps during World War II. A donor gave the tapes to Densho for safekeeping, and we got a grant from the 4Culture Collections Care funding program to convert the 16 hours of deteriorating tapes from an obsolete format to digital files for preservation. In grainy black and white, history comes back to life.

For three days in September 1981, Japanese American survivors of the camps, their friends and allies, and a few opponents testified to the commissioners in Seattle. Emotions range from suppressed anger to sorrow to pride and back again. Here is a clip of one testimony, by Nobel Peace Prize nominee Floyd Schmoe, a dedicated pacifist who tried to stop the massive injustice.