Thursday, December 11, 2014

Densho Online Giving Challenge Match for December

Earlier this year, Densho received the Vox Populi (Voice of the People) Award from the Oral History Association for our online 800+ oral history collection. Following the announcement of this prestigious national award, the National Park Service approved a $210,000 matching grant for an innovative project to make it easier for teachers and students to download and use Densho's video interviews in the classroom to make documentaries. What this means is that for every dollar you donate, the NPS will contribute two dollars to us. As a thank you, if you donate in December you'll receive a set of five custom first-class postage stamps with an image of the Tule Lake concentration camp. And if you donate $125 or more, you receive your choice of the DVDs, Conscience and the Constitution or The Legacy of Heart Mountain. If you donate $200, you receive both. 

To donate, please visit www.densho.org/give

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Joseph Frisino: Personal Reaction to the Bombing of Pearl Harbor

Joseph Frisino was serving in the U.S. Army when Pearl Harbor was bombed. He had grown up on the East Coast and, in 1941, struggled with not being able to differentiate between Japanese Americans and the Japanese soldiers who had done the bombing. Joseph Frisino's full interview is available in the Densho Digital Archive.

View the Archive Spotlight interview excerpt

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

New Encyclopedia Articles, November 2014

Having worked in museums and similar organizations for most of the last twenty-five or so years, the work they do is close to my heart. Many museum exhibitions have told parts of the story of the Japanese American wartime exclusion and incarceration, and I've added a new Densho Encyclopedia overview article on that topic, along with separate articles on many of the individual exhibitions. Among the new individual exhibition articles are ones on the influential 1992 art exhibition The View from Within: Japanese American Art from the Internment Camps, 1942–1945, issued to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Executive Order 9066 by the Japanese American National Museum, UCLA Asian American Studies Center and Wight Art Gallery and the much traveled The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps, 1942–1946. These join many previously issued article on earlier exhibitions ranging from Ansel Adam's 1944 exhibition of Manzanar photographs at the Museum of Modern Art to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History's A More Perfect Union: Japanese American & the U.S. Constitution. Many others will appear in subsequent weeks. There has been relatively little examination of these exhibitions over time, so I hope this makes a contribution to our knowledge of the topic. I've also tried to compile as complete a list of exhibitions as possible at the end of the article. If you know any that are missing please feel free to let me know.

Also added are two articles on landmark legal cases involving challenges of the so-called alien land laws after the war, Masaoka v. California and Kenji Namba v. McCourt, both by Greg Robinson. These join Greg's earlier articles on two other land law cases, Oyama v. California and Fujii v. California. Collectively, these challenges, launched in response to increased enforcement of the land laws during and immediately after the war, effectively ended enforcement of the laws that so dramatically affected the status of Japanese Americans. As part of her series of pieces on artists and writers whose work references the incarceration, Patricia Wakida adds pieces on photographers Clem Albers, Masumi Hayashi, Patrick Nagatani.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Tosh Yasutake: Treating Soldiers with "Shell-Shock"

Tosh Yasutake served as a medic with I Company, 442nd Regimental Combat Team. In this clip, he talks about how to treat soldiers, including the medic he replaced, who suffered from "shell-shock." Tosh Yasutake's full interview is available in the Densho Digital Archive.

View the Archive Spotlight interview excerpt
Read the Densho Encyclopedia article on the 442nd Regimental Combat Team

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Henry Miyatake: An Essay Results in Expulsion From School

Henry Miyatake was a high school student during World War II. In this clip, he describes an essay he wrote for a high school civics class at Minidoka titled "American Democracy and What It Means to Me." His teacher would not accept the essay unless Henry rewrote it, which he refused to do. This resulted in a failing grade and he was unable to graduate from high school in camp. Henry Miyatake's full interview is available in the Densho Digital Archive. 

View the Archive Spotlight interview excerpt

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

New Encyclopedia Articles, September 2014

In 1987, in the midst of the movement for redress and reparations for the forced removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History debuted an exhibition titled A More Perfect Union: Japanese Americans & the U.S. Constitution as part of the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the constitution. Reinforcing the conclusions of the congressionally mandated Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians four years earlier, A More Perfect Union presented an unambiguous example of the constitution gone wrong in the country's official history museum, where no doubt millions learned about this history in the seventeen years the exhibition was up. A new article by Abbie Salyers Grubb on A More Perfect Union highlights the new articles this month.

While many of us who are old enough remember A More Perfect Union, I suspect a lot of us don't know about a remarkable exhibition centered on the Japanese American incarceration that was on display at the Japanese equivalent of the Smithsonian, the National Museum of Japanese History (commonly referred to as Rekihaku) in 2010–11. Titled Japanese Immigrants in the United States and the War Era, this exhibition takes a very different view of the incarceration as viewed from the Japanese perspective, as described in the new article by Kaori Akiyama, a Japanese graduate student studying museum exhibitions in Japan and the U.S. There will be many more articles on these exhibitions coming shortly.

Other new articles also preview more of what's to come: Greg Robinson's pieces on the Fujii v. California alien land law case and mine on Esther Takei Nishio, the first "regular" Japanese American allowed to return to California in 1944 preview many more to come from the early postwar period. Patricia Wakida's on Nikki Sawada Bridges Flynn is one of many she is working on on Japanese American writers and artists strongly influenced by their incarceration experience. There are a few articles on the War Relocation Authority community analysts up already, but many more will be coming, including the newly posted one on John Radamaker, the analyst at Amache in 1943–44 that I collaborated with Cherstin Lyon on. (Rademaker was one of three Community Analysis Section staffers who ended up at the University of Hawaii after the war.) Finally, Stan Yogi contributes pieces on lawyers who worked on the either the wartime cases or coram nobis casesLorriane Bannai, Peter Irons, Dale Minami, and James Purcell—with more to come.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Garden of Stones and Historical Accuracy

The novel Garden of Stones is marred by many historical inaccuracies/implausibilities, but is a well told story that has no doubt introduced many to the story of Japanese American wartime expulsion and incarceration.

In the last decade and a half or so, there have been a lot of novels published that involve the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans as part of their plots. The same can be said for plays, movies and TV shows, documentary films, and other storytelling media. I'll save ruminating on the reasons for this for another time and instead focus on another issue: that of historical accuracy/dramatic license and its importance.

What brings me to this topic is a recent novel, published last year, titled Garden of Stones by Sophie Littlefield. Published by Harlequin, the book and author seem to have quite a following, and positive reviews abound.

At the same time, Alisa Lynch of the Manzanar National Historic Site pointed us at Densho to a review by Terry Hong of the Smithsonian's Asian Pacific American Center. While Hong found the book well written and gripping, she was troubled by the dramatic liberties taken by the author, in particular the depiction of widespread sexual abuse of women and children at Manzanar by white staff members, something there is no documentation for. "Fiction though Garden of Stones clearly is, that Littlefield chose a historical event, a real-life location and experiences (including actual staff positions!), surely requires accurate depictions," Hong writes.