Friday, August 27, 2010

The Manhattan Mosque Controversy through a Japanese American Lens

A recent blog points to a short interview with Scott Kurashige, Associate Professor of American Culture at the University of Michigan. Interviewed for Public Radio International's "The World," Kurashige is asked about comparisons between the treatment of Japanese Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the controversy over building a Muslim community center near the site of the 9/11 attacks in Manhattan. Kurashige sees a parallel between the controversy over the center and efforts to block Japanese immigrants from building Buddhist temples and shrines in the decades surrounding World War II. (Kuroshige's own grandfather was arrested after the Pearl Harbor attack because he was a Buddhist priest.) The historian also wrote a trenchant editorial about "the use and abuse of historical analogy" by opponents of the proposed Muslim community center.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Repealing Birthright Citizenship Wasn't a Good Idea Back in the Forties Either

On George Mason University's History News Network (HNN), historian Greg Robinson, author of A Tragedy of Democracy, posted a recent article about lawsuits by nativists during World War II to strip Nisei of their citizenship, something that strikes a chord with Densho:

The recent wave of public anger over illegal immigration has given rise to a movement to amend the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees birthright citizenship for all native-born children, in order to strip children of illegal immigrants of U.S. citizenship. While such projects are not entirely new—California’s governor Pete Wilson proposed such a measure as part of his immigration plan in 1993—for the first time prominent political leaders nationwide have taken up the call. Notably, both titular chiefs of the GOP in Congress, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader John Boehner, have now endorsed reconsidering the principle of birthright citizenship for all Americans.

agrees with Greg Robinson that this is a very bad idea, for many reasons. What do you think? We welcome your comments.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Hello Maggie!: Shig Yabu, Children's Book Author

As a boy Shig Yabu was taken from his home in San Francisco to the Pomona Assembly Center, California, and the Heart Mountain incarceration camp in Wyoming. While in camp, he saved an injured baby magpie, named it Maggie, and adopted it as a pet. Following the war, Shig became involved with the Heart Mountain Foundation, where members encouraged him to write stories about the talking magpie. The resulting children's book, Hello, Maggie!, was illustrated by Willie Ito, a former Disney animator. In an excerpt from his recent interview with Densho, Shig tells how the bird became a popular inhabitant of the incarceration camp. View other Densho Archive Spotlights.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Pioneer Generation: Remembering the Issei

"They were early pioneers. And especially on farms it was very difficult for them."
--Kara Kondo

The stories Nisei interviewees tell about their parents form a pattern: Fathers left the villages and rice farms of Japan at the turn of the last century to earn money in Hawaii and mainland United States. Some still in their teens, they took grueling jobs at farms, lumber mills, railroad camps, and fishing canneries; others worked as houseboys. Once they earned enough money, the men returned to Japan to find a bride or sent for a picture bride. Babies arrived, and the Issei built churches and Japanese language schools to educate the next generation. They formed business associations to support each other in an inhospitable country. They turned undesirable land into flourishing farms by working dawn to dusk, and even into the night. While many decided to make America their permanent home, others expected to return to Japan. As Ike Ikeda says, "I had a feeling that, like many immigrants, they were ready to make their mint. They thought they would really get rich in a hurry and go back. But that never happened." What happened to the Issei instead in the 1940s no one could have anticipated.

Read more of this article.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Kooskia Internment Camp Story

This morning Densho staff was surprised to hear one of our interviewees, Tad Sato, included in a local NPR story on the obscure Kooskia internment camp for Issei men. Over 250 Issei men volunteered to transfer from other Department of Justice camps to earn better wages--and to escape the barbed-wire confinement. They were still internees, but they preferred working in the wilderness to idleness in a DOJ camp.Treated like prisoners of war, the Issei men were put to work building what is now the Lewis and Clark Highway between Lewiston and Missoula.

A new book by Priscilla Wegars, Imprisoned in Paradise: Japanese Internee Road Workers at Kooskia Internment Camp, traces the story of this almost forgotten camp. If you're near Lowell, Idaho, you can attend one of the author's book signings.

The KUOW radio story by correspondent Tom Banse begins:

When you drive through the Clearwater National Forest in Northern Idaho, you're surrounded by deep, green forests and wild and scenic rivers. But if you drove through there 67 years ago, signs would have warned you not to stop. The woods hid a World War II Japanese internment camp. This week, archaeologists are wrapping up a dig at that now virtually forgotten site. A new book about this hidden history is titled "Imprisoned in Paradise."