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From Concentration Camp to Campus

From Concentration Camp to Campus: Japanese American Students and World War II

ALLAN W. AUSTIN
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 256
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/j.ctt3fh4vz
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  • Book Info
    From Concentration Camp to Campus
    Book Description:

    In the aftermath of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor and the systematic exile and incarceration of thousands of Japanese Americans, the National Japanese American Student Relocation Council was born. Created to facilitate the movement of Japanese American college students from concentration camps to colleges away from the West Coast, this privately organized and funded agency helped more than four thousand incarcerated students pursue higher education at more than six hundred schools during WWII. _x000B__x000B_Allan W. Austin's From Concentration Camp to Campus examines the council's work and the challenges it faced in an atmosphere of pervasive wartime racism. Austin also reveals the voices of students as they worked to construct their own meaning for wartime experiences under pressure of forced and total assimilation. Austin argues that the resettled students succeeded in reintegrating themselves into the wider American society without sacrificing their connections to community and their Japanese cultural heritage._x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09042-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. FOREWORD
    (pp. IX-X)
    Roger Daniels

    Of all the contradictions inherent in the incarceration of the Japanese American population of the West Coast during World War II, perhaps none is so striking as the program that took four thousand of the imprisoned people of college age, as Allan W. Austin puts it, “from concentration camp to campus.” Although works about that secondary exodus have been published by journalists and scholars from the immediate postwar years to the present, Austin is the first to exploit the archival evidence to show in telling detail just how that liberation was effected.

    Despite the fact that Franklin D. Roosevelt quickly...

  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. XI-XII)
  5. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. XIII-XIV)
  6. INTRODUCTION: “AMBASSADORS OF GOODWILL”
    (pp. 1-8)

    A Japanese American college student incarcerated at the Tanforan camp in 1942 discovered that by climbing a hill he could see a familiar sign that he had driven past countless times on his way to school. From his new vantage point, however, he remembered that it now “‘seemed as though [he] was gazing on a strange landmark.’”¹ Although still close to his home, this uprooted student felt a growing psychological distance between himself and a higher education. The shock and trauma resulting from Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, as well as the ensuing exile and incarceration...

  7. 1 CREATING THE NATIONAL JAPANESE AMERICAN STUDENT RELOCATION COUNCIL
    (pp. 9-36)

    In spring 1942, a sign tacked to a door in the Japanese Student Club house at the University of Washington presented a plaintive plea:

    Working on the final term

    Paper of my career

    Please do not disturb

    Lets make it a masterpiece.

    Geo. Yamaguchi¹

    Yamaguchi’s poignant notice revealed the despair that Nikkei students felt as exile loomed. The despair moved different people in different ways, however. Some Nikkei dropped out immediately after Pearl Harbor. Yamaguchi and others temporarily remained in school but viewed exile and incarceration as the terminal point of their higher education.

    Other Nikkei students resisted such fatalism....

  8. 2 LIVING IN HOPE AND WORKING ON FAITH, SUMMER 1942
    (pp. 37-61)

    Commencement exercises at the Santa Anita Assembly Center in June 1942 highlighted the incongruent circumstances of the incarcerated students. The ceremony, held in a concentration camp because of the presumed disloyalty of the inmates, began with the national anthem. More than 250 students from thirty-four different colleges, junior colleges, high schools, and junior high schools then received diplomas. The graduates were congratulated “for receiving their diplomas under such trying circumstances” and urged to use their “education for the building of a better world.” The Santa Anita Pacemaker’s front-page coverage included a cartoon of a Nikkei student on a boat using...

  9. 3 IN “FREE AMERICA,” FALL 1942–SUMMER 1943
    (pp. 62-96)

    “I am feeling like Cinderella,” Chiya Veronica Asado wrote from Western College in Oxford, Ohio, “and I am hoping that this shall not be a spirit that will wear off in time.”¹ Aided by a $295 scholarship from the Presbyterian Church and a job at Western, she had come to Ohio in February 1943 expecting some prejudice. She noted a happy surprise: “not … one person … seemed to have any resentment against Americans of Japanese ancestry.” Asado believed that many of the students had expected her to struggle with the English language, to dress in kimonos, or to bring...

  10. 4 CHANGE AND NEW CHALLENGES IN A WORLD AT WAR, FALL 1943–SUMMER 1944
    (pp. 97-128)

    “It is very good,” Mary Murata wrote Trudy King, “to be out again and enjoy the freedom of walking the streets, riding vehicles, and so many other things which we missed so long.” Blocked from resettlement during 1942–43 by school quotas, Murata resettled to St. Mary’s School of Nursing in Rochester, Minnesota, in fall 1943. She wrote to thank King and the council, “for all your kind attention and your untiring efforts, and may God bless you all for your wonderful work.”¹

    As increasing numbers of inmates resettled to schools for 1943–44, they played a part in transforming...

  11. 5 CLOSING DOWN AND SAYING SAYONARA, 1944–46
    (pp. 129-160)

    Nobuko Emoto joyfully wrote a supportive minister in June 1944 that “God must have heard my prayer.”¹ Her parents had finally allowed her to leave the Gila River concentration camp for Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania and “now there [was] nothing to do for [her] freedom but wait until August.” Emoto planned to major in creative writing to “accomplish something for my people—the Nisei …. I must go to college to do what my heart tells me to do.”²

    Emoto had to do more than just wait, however; she had to secure financial aid. Gettysburg provided a $200 scholarship. In...

  12. CONCLUSION: MEMORY AND THE MEANING OF STUDENT RESETTLEMENT
    (pp. 161-172)

    While positive memories of the council justifiably remain today, especially among the students it helped, a critical appraisal of the council and its program is necessary. The council negotiated a complex and racist wartime environment to help a group that many Americans considered disloyal only because of their ethnic origin. Success in this endeavor required compromise and resulted in part from a shared vision with the WRA.

    The historical legacies of student resettlement during World War II defy simple explanation. While casting the council’s story as one of heroes and villains—the council, its supporters, and the Nikkei students defeating...

  13. APPENDIX 1: ATTENDEES AT MAY 29, 1942, MEETING IN CHICAGO
    (pp. 173-174)
  14. APPENDIX 2: ATTENDEES AT SEPTEMBER 29, 1943, MEETING IN NEW YORK CITY
    (pp. 175-176)
  15. NOTES
    (pp. 177-222)
  16. SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 223-229)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 230-238)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 239-242)