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Jim and Jap Crow

Jim and Jap Crow: A Cultural History of 1940s Interracial America

Matthew M. Briones
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Jim and Jap Crow
    Book Description:

    Following Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the U.S. government rounded up more than one hundred thousand Japanese Americans and sent them to internment camps. One of those internees was Charles Kikuchi. In thousands of diary pages, he documented his experiences in the camps, his resettlement in Chicago and drafting into the Army on the eve of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and his postwar life as a social worker in New York City. Kikuchi's diaries bear witness to a watershed era in American race relations, and expose both the promise and the hypocrisy of American democracy.

    Jim and Jap Crowfollows Kikuchi's personal odyssey among fellow Japanese American intellectuals, immigrant activists, Chicago School social scientists, everyday people on Chicago's South Side, and psychologically scarred veterans in the hospitals of New York. The book chronicles a remarkable moment in America's history in which interracial alliances challenged the limits of the elusive democratic ideal, and in which the nation was forced to choose between civil liberty and the fearful politics of racial hysteria. It was an era of world war and the atomic bomb, desegregation in the military but Jim and Jap Crow elsewhere in America, and a hopeful progressivism that gave way to Cold War paranoia.

    Jim and Jap Crowlooks at Kikuchi's life and diaries as a lens through which to observe the possibilities, failures, and key conversations in a dynamic multiracial America.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4221-6
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Preface: “Contraction and Release”
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction An Age of Possibility
    (pp. 1-17)

    A young American with a Japanese face stares at a notebook. He is Nisei, a second-generation Japanese American, and a twenty-five-year-old master’s student in social welfare at the University of California, Berkeley (“Cal”). The cacophony of the streets outside his apartment window serves as mere descant to the ringing in his ears, the palpitation in his heart, and the shaking of his hand as Charles Kikuchi writes:

    Sunday, December 7, 1941 . . . On this day the escapist pipedreams of paradise indulged in by the Nisei in their secluded university Ivory Tower was explosively shattered by the impact of...

  6. Chapter 1 Before Pearl Harbor: Taking the Measure of a “Marginal” Man
    (pp. 18-48)

    On September 25, 1988, the writing finally stopped. Charlie Kikuchi had put his pen down at last. For forty-seven years, he had opened up a blank journal or slipped out a fresh piece of paper and started recalling that day’s odyssey, from mundane to the epic, writing down whatever thoughts came to mind. For the first thirty-four of those years, he kept a personal diary, both hand- and typewritten, while over his final thirteen years, he substituted diligent correspondence with family, friends, and scholars instead. In the course of his observations, Kikuchi, a social worker by trade, ultimately penned more...

  7. Chapter 2 “A Multitude of Complexes”: Finding Common Ground with Louis Adamic
    (pp. 49-73)

    On Sunday afternoon, December 7, 1941, a bull session among a few Nisei friends at Cal grew increasingly contentious. Topic A was the simmering relationship between Japan and the United States: only four months earlier, President Roosevelt had ordered the freezing of Japan’s assets and a de facto embargoing of oil exports to Japan in response to the Japanese occupation of southern Indochina. Kikuchi and his buddies had been closely monitoring the failing negotiations between the United States and Japan, and they suspected that America had little choice but to enter the war soon. In a matter of seconds, they...

  8. Chapter 3 “Unity within Diversity”: Intimacies and Public Discourses of Race and Ethnicity
    (pp. 74-107)

    Familiar with Adamic’s œuvre and well aware ofCommon Ground’s timely appeal to particular writers and readers, Kikuchi shrewdly (and opportunistically) understood that cultivating a relationship with a figure as influential as Adamic could only help his future career and long-term interest in matters of race and ethnicity. On a personal level, he knew that maintaining such prominent connections could yield more immediate help if necessary; after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Kikuchi indeed counted on the Adamics for practical and emotional support. As the war progressed and his family was interned, Kikuchi asked both Louis and Stella to aid...

  9. Chapter 4 “Participating and Observing”: Dorothy Swaine Thomas, W. I. Thomas, and JERS
    (pp. 108-135)

    In September 1942, after being corralled at the Tanforan Assembly Center for four months, Kikuchi began the second phase of his internment in the desolate and arid environs of the Gila River Relocation Center, fifty miles southeast of Phoenix.¹ He received a letter of concern toward the end of the month, which began, “Thanks for writing to me in one of my roles other than that of college professor. I have been awfully worried about the situation at Gila but you are obviously adjusting so well that I feel a good deal better about it.”² Writing from the relative comfort...

  10. Chapter 5 The Tanforan and Gila Diaries: Becoming Nikkei
    (pp. 136-161)

    Stable 10. Stall 5. That was where the Kikuchi family spent its first four months (May–August 1942) of incarceration at Tanforan Racetrack. As previously noted, Kikuchi cautiously, even if not reluctantly, had decided to rejoin his family during the initial phase of the internment. Before evacuation, he had occasionally interacted with his siblings but rarely visited his parents. In fact, the period of the internment and resettlement represented the most time Kikuchi would ever spend with his family of origin. Even though they would survive the trauma of internment together, including Kikuchi père’s death, it did not appear to...

  11. Chapter 6 From “Jap Crow” to “Jim and Jane Crow”: Black and Blue (and Yellow) in Chicago and the Bay Area
    (pp. 162-191)

    In 1940, only 390 Americans of Japanese descent called Chicago “home.” Despite taking place nearly 5,000 miles away, the attack on Pearl Harbor would immediately affect those midwesterners’ lives. Law enforcement quickly canvassed the small area of twenty-five Japanese lunchrooms and caterers and, at Mayor Edward Kelly’s order, shut them down. TheChicago Tribuneran the headline “CHICAGO JAPS GLOOMY, HIDE BEHIND DOORS ” for an article reporting on “a group of Japanese huddled in a rear room . . . in the Tokyo lunch, one of the largest restaurants, at 551 South State street.”¹ Angry residents took matters into...

  12. Chapter 7 “It Could Just as Well Be Me”: Japanese American and African American GIs in the Army Diary
    (pp. 192-217)

    Barely a week had passed since the twin bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki violently hastened the end of World War II. On the other side of the world, at Fort Sheridan, Illinois, a recent inductee into the U.S. Army recorded the following incident in his diary on August 16, 1945:

    A Negro soldier came in, and he had a difficult time in printing his name so I did it for him. “Four-eyes” then commented after the colored boy departed, “You shouldn’t have helped that damn booby.” I asked why not, and he said that it was too dangerous to even...

  13. Conclusion: Tatsuro, “Standing Man”
    (pp. 218-236)

    Unbeknownst to either principal, Charlie first saw his bride-to-be, Yuriko Amemiya, on Saturday, March 20, 1943, as she danced on a moonlit stage at Gila. The two, of course, did not speak to each other that evening, or at any other time both were in camp. Despite making a mess of her name in his diary, Kikuchi nonetheless wrote with clear admiration of the Kibei dancer’s talent and artistry.

    This evening we went to a classical dance concert under the Arizona skies. The admission was five cents. Yuri Amariya used to be a professional dancer in L.A. and she directed...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 237-262)
  15. Index
    (pp. 263-285)