Tuesday, November 16, 2010

RIP William Hohri

[Below is an excerpt from an obituary written by Martha Nakagawa. The photo is from an interview William Hohri did with Densho in 1997. Frank Abe also has a good post about Hohri.]

William Minoru Hohri, writer, civil rights activist and lead plaintiff in the National Council for Japanese American Redress (NCJAR) class action lawsuit, passed away on Friday, Nov. 12. He was 83.

Hohri, a former Manzanar inmate during World War II, is best known for spearheading the NCJAR class action lawsuit, filed on March 16, 1983, which sued the United States government for $27 billion for injuries suffered as the result of the WW II exclusion and incarceration of Japanese Americans in U.S. concentration camps. The court disallowed NCJAR’s lawsuit on technical grounds on Oct. 31, 1988. Many felt NCJAR’s near successful lawsuit had influenced Congress to pass the redress bill.

Aiko Yoshinaga Herzig who was instrumental in uncovering documents in the National Archives for Hohri had the following things to say.

“William Hohri was a man of integrity. His straightforwardness made a great impression on me when we first met some 30 years ago. He was a dedicated family man, a philosopher, a skilled author, and a courageous leader who took on the chairmanship of a movement that others feared to pursue — that of confronting the government directly in the courts by challenging the legality of the denial of constitutionally-guaranteed civil liberties of an innocent ethnic minority during World War II, and to make restitution for the injustice. He acted vigorously on his convictions to seek remedies for social inequities perpetrated upon oppressed minorities. I am among those who will truly miss our good friend William.”

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Earlier this year Densho traveled to Hawaii and interviewed Masamizu Kitajima, a Nisei from Ookala, Hawaii. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, his father, a prominent Buddhist minister, was arrested by the FBI and interned in various facilities. With little community support and five children to raise, Masamizu's mother decided to accept the U.S. government's offer and move the family from Hawaii to the Jerome incarceration camp, Arkansas, to reunite with Masamizu's father. In an excerpt from his interview, Masamizu describes his sudden understanding that his father wasn't coming home after being arrested. He realized that as the oldest son, he now had to assume the role of father-figure to his family, despite being only eight years old.

View the Archive Spotlight interview excerpt