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After Camp

After Camp: Portraits in Midcentury Japanese American Life and Politics

Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    After Camp
    Book Description:

    This book illuminates various aspects of a central but unexplored area of American history: the midcentury Japanese American experience. A vast and ever-growing literature exists, first on the entry and settlement of Japanese immigrants in the United States at the turn of the 20th century, then on the experience of the immigrants and their American-born children during World War II. Yet the essential question, “What happened afterwards?” remains all but unanswered in historical literature. Excluded from the wartime economic boom and scarred psychologically by their wartime ordeal, the former camp inmates struggled to remake their lives in the years that followed. This volume consists of a series of case studies that shed light on various developments relating to Japanese Americans in the aftermath of their wartime confinement, including resettlement nationwide, the mental and physical readjustment of the former inmates, and their political engagement, most notably in concert with other racialized and ethnic minority groups.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95227-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    This book illuminates various aspects of a central but unexplored area of American history: the midcentury Japanese American experience. A vast and ever-growing literature exists, first on the entry and settlement of Japanese immigrants in the United States at the turn of the twentieth century, then on the experience of the immigrants and their American-born children during World War II.¹ Indeed, the official roundup of some 120,000 American citizens and permanent residents of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast and their subsequent confinement in government camps (often, if imprecisely, called the ʺJapanese American internmentʺ) represents the single most-documented subject in...


    • 1. Political Science? FDR, Japanese Americans, and the Postwar Dispersion of Minorities
      (pp. 15-30)

      The termpolitical scienceusually refers to all the ways—polls, models, and statistics—that academics have used to bring scientific principles to the study of political behavior. Yet my use of these two words comes from a completely opposite direction and refers to the use of science for political purposes—an unexamined aspect of the domestic and foreign policy of President Franklin Roosevelt during the years of World War II. FDR and his advisors, believing that concentration of minority groups, especially urban-based, within established nations bred poverty and intergroup tensions, sought to alleviate conflict by scientifically planning the mass...

    • 2. Forrest LaViolette: Race, Internationalism, and Assimilation
      (pp. 31-42)

      The career and complex views of Forrest Emmanuel LaViolette provide a special window into the question of Japanese American (and Canadian) resettlement and assimilation. LaViolette, a University of Chicago–trained sociologist engaged in research on Japanese Americans and cultural values, became a lecturer at the University of Washington in the late 1930s. Even as he conducted his research, he was welcomed into the Japanese community, and achieved an unusual measure of integration for a non-Japanese. After being hired as professor of sociology at McGill University in Montreal in 1940, LaViolette further distinguished himself as a scholar of Japanese Canadians and...

    • 3. Japantown Born and Reborn: Comparing the Resettlement Experience of Issei and Nisei in Detroit, New York, and Los Angeles
      (pp. 43-66)

      The Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941 and the unleashing of World War II in the Pacific wiped out the thriving Japanese communities on the Pacific coast of the United States. In the weeks that followed the onset of war, military officials on the West Coast became increasingly terrified of a Japanese invasion. They proceeded to single out the regionʹs Japanese American population as potential spies and saboteurs on the basis of their ancestry, and called for the mass ʺevacuationʺ of both Issei and Nisei from the West Coast.¹ The movement was further fomented and abetted by white...


    • 4. Birth of a Citizen: Miné Okubo and the Politics of Symbolism
      (pp. 69-84)

      Citizen 13660, Miné Okuboʹs illustrated memoir of her personal experience during the wartime removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans, is a masterpiece of ambiguity. Like many works of art and literature by African Americans,Citizen 13660has often been assimilated by latter-day critics into the protest tradition.¹ These critics make much of Okuboʹs trickster nature and her use of double-sided combinations of words and images as weapons of resistance. Pointing to the disjunction between the narrative and Okuboʹs accompanying drawings, they contend that beneath the textʹs apparently clear (and supposedly inoffensive) surface narrative lurk various subversive and radical messages awaiting...

    • 5. The ʺNew Niseiʺ and Identity Politics
      (pp. 85-102)

      The mass removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans by the United States government during World War II brutalized its victims not only by stripping away their civil rights and causing them to lose most of their possessions but also by upsetting their psychological equilibrium. Before the war, the vast majority of Japanese Americans on the American continent lived on the West Coast, where they built close-knit ethnic communities around Japanese schools, churches, and sports teams. Large cities also boasted Japanese-language or bilingual newspapers, holiday processions, self-help groups, and ethnic associations. The U.S. governmentʹs policy of forcible removal smashed Japanese communities,...


    • 6. Japanese Americans and Mexican Americans: The Limits of Interracial Collaboration
      (pp. 105-138)

      Historians have begun in recent years to look past limited views of race in American history as a series of interactions between individual minorities (generally African Americans) and the white majority. The study of connections between racialized groups—that is, those considered as ʺotherʺ than white and subjected to discrimination on that basis—and how they view each other is a fruitful avenue for looking at the workings of society. The interplay between Mexican Americans and Japanese Americans in Southern California during the 1940s provides a particularly revealing window into the complexities of such relations. Although both of these communities...

    • 7. From Kuichi to Comrades: Japanese American Views of Jews in the 1930s and 1940s
      (pp. 139-154)

      Several years ago, as part of my research into the wartime confinement of Japanese Americans, I came across some correspondence by Kiyoshi Okamoto. Okamoto, a Hawaiian-born Nisei, was the founder of the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee, which campaigned for restoration of civil rights to confined Japanese Americans during World War II and protested conscription of Nisei from the camps. I was surprised to discover that Okamotoʹs letters seeking outside aid were laced with nasty remarks about Jews and what he considered the baneful Jewish influence over the Roosevelt administration.¹ I mentioned to a Nisei friend the irony of prejudice...

    • Photographs
      (pp. None)

    • 8. African American Responses to the Wartime Confinement of Japanese Americans
      (pp. 157-170)

      Scholars of United States history and literature have devoted increasing attention over the past generation to the study of past encounters between African Americans and Asian Americans. Beyond the importance of the question in academic terms, the rediscovery of the history of black-Asian relations has a particular urgency about it. Even after the end of the twentieth century, in a world of changing global alliances and power relations, people of African and Asian ancestry in the United States remain widely stereotyped in popular thought as ʺnaturallyʺ and fundamentally opposed, an image that results in good part from simplistic mass media...

    • 9. The Los Angeles Defender: Hugh E. Macbeth and Japanese Americans
      (pp. 171-182)

      The long history of relations between Asian Americans and African Americans has been marked by a complex succession of interactions, in which individuals have at different times expressed curiosity, disdain, admiration, hostility, envy, affection, rivalry, xenophobia, and sympathy for the other. Probably the most common sentiment has been indifference—members of these two population groups have simply not been in a position either to make trouble for the other group or to do them much good. Historians have only begun to document some of the striking, if less common, incidences of mutual support and friendship between blacks and Asians.


    • 10. Crusaders in Gotham: The JACD and Interracial Activism
      (pp. 183-192)

      The most unique element of 1940s New York Japanese community life, and one in which resettlers would also play a prominent role, was the development of a mass Nikkei political action group, the Japanese American Committee for Democracy. The JACD has been effectively ignored in the history of Japanese Americans, no doubt as a result of its close relationship to the Communist Party. The number of actual Party members in the JACD seems to have been small, though this is a matter of dispute, and the groupʹs militants were by no means simple party-liners. Nevertheless, the JACDʹs platform and activities...


    • 11. From Korematsu to Brown: Nisei and the Postwar Struggle for Civil Rights
      (pp. 195-216)

      The story of the United States Supreme Courtʹs epochal 1954 ruling inBrown v.Board of Educationand the legal struggle for civil rights led by the NAACP during the decade following World War II occupies a central place in many Americansʹ understanding both of the history of democracy in the United States and of the African American experience.¹ Under the direction of chief counsel Thurgood Marshall, the NAACPʹs Legal Defense and Education Fund and allied attorneys brought a series of civil rights cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Its campaign culminated triumphantly inBrownand its companion caseBolling...

    • 12. An Uneasy Alliance: Blacks and Japanese Americans, 1954–1965
      (pp. 217-240)

      The interaction between Nisei and African Americans in the period from the 1940s to the 1960s offers a revealing window into the complexities of American society and race relations. Although members of both groups suffered continuing race-based discrimination in differing forms and degrees, their experience did not necessarily bring them together. Encounters between individuals involved a variety of reciprocal reactions: friendship, fear, hostility, sympathy, competition, disdain, solidarity, envy, suspicion, desire for emulation, and (perhaps most often) indifference. During the early postwar years, members of the two communities formed numerous ties, and on a group level the two minorities achieved a...

  9. Epilogue
    (pp. 241-248)

    In 1969, Bill Hosokawa, an esteemed Nisei journalist and associate editor of theDenver Post, produced a popular historical study of Japanese Americans. His principal goal, as he described it, was to tell the inspiring tale of the Japanese communityʹs social ascension, despite the exceptional level of exclusion and discrimination its members had faced relative to other immigrants. As former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Edwin O. Reischauer stated in the bookʹs preface, the history of Japanese Americans was ʺthe great American success story writ large—a Horatio Alger tale on an ethnic scale,ʺ and a source of inspiration for other...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 249-302)
  11. Index
    (pp. 303-318)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 319-319)