Tag Archives: Civil Rights Movement

17 Essential Titles on the Japanese American Wartime Experience

On this 75th anniversary year of Executive Order 9066, which authorized the forced evacuation and mass incarceration of Japanese American citizens, join us in highlighting vital books by and about what Japanese American families endured during World War II.

Throughout the new administration’s first 100 days and beyond, we celebrate the voices and legacy of the incarcerated and their families and recognize our distinguished authors of books in American studies and history, critical race and ethnic studies, and social justice. The University of Washington Press is proud to have a history of publishing pathbreaking titles about the Asian American experience and the struggle for civil rights and redress. Together, let us remember American history we can’t afford to forget and continue to fight for equity and justice for all.

Scott and Laurie Oki Series in Asian American Studies:

The Hope of Another Spring: Takuichi Fujii, Artist and Wartime Witness
By Barbara Johns
Foreword by Roger Daniels
Introduction to the diary by Sandy Kita
Forthcoming May 2017

Sent to detention camps at Puyallup, Washington, and then Minidoka in Idaho, artist Takuichi Fujii (1891-1964) documented his daily experiences in words and art. This richly illustrated book reveals the rare find of a large and heretofore unknown collection of art produced during World War II. The centerpiece of the collection is Fujii’s illustrated diary that historian Roger Daniels called “the most remarkable document created by a Japanese American prisoner during the wartime incarceration.”

Barbara Johns presents the artist’s life story and his achievements within the social and political context of the time. Sandy Kita, the artist’s grandson, provides translations and an introduction to the diary. The Hope of Another Spring is a significant contribution to Asian American studies, American and regional history, and art history.

enduringconviction-bannaiEnduring Conviction: Fred Korematsu and His Quest for Justice
By Lorraine K. Bannai

Bannai brings an insider’s knowledge to the famous legal case of Fred Korematsu, a man interned by the government under Executive Order 9066, but whose conviction was ultimately overturned by the Supreme Court decades later. Lorraine Bannai served on the legal team that represented Korematsu in reopening his case in the 1980s.

A Principled Stand: The Story of Hirabayashi v. United States
By Gordon K. Hirabayashi
With James A. Hirabayashi and Lane Ryo Hirabayashi

In 1943, University of Washington student Gordon Hirabayashi defied the curfew and mass removal of Japanese Americans on the West Coast, and was subsequently convicted and imprisoned as a result. In A Principled Stand, Gordon’s brother James and nephew Lane have brought together his prison diaries and voluminous wartime correspondence to tell the story of Hirabayashi v. United States, the Supreme Court case that in 1943 upheld and on appeal in 1987 vacated his conviction. For the first time, the events of the case are told in Gordon’s own words. The result is a compelling and intimate story that reveals what motivated him, how he endured, and how his ideals changed and deepened as he fought discrimination and defended his beliefs.

Nisei Soldiers Break Their Silence: Coming Home to Hood River
By Linda Tamura

“An important book about a shameful era in the history of the Columbia gorge. . . . Tamura uses interviews and newly uncovered documents to tell a shocking story.”—Jeff Baker, The Oregonian

This compelling story of courage, community, endurance, and reparation shares the experiences of Japanese Americans (Nisei) from Hood River, Oregon, who served in the U.S. Army during World War II, and faced The soldiers were from Hood River, Oregon, where their families were landowners and fruit growers. Town leaders, including veterans’ groups, attempted to prevent their return after the war and stripped their names from the local war memorial. All of the soldiers were American citizens, but their parents were Japanese immigrants and had been imprisoned in camps as a consequence of Executive Order 9066. The racist homecoming that the Hood River Japanese American soldiers received was decried across the nation.

Watch the book trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hHMcFdmixLk

Signs of Home: The Paintings and Wartime Diary of Kamekichi Tokita
By Barbara Johns
Foreword by Stephen H. Sumida

“A fascinating book that accomplishes more than one purpose. The first part is a biography of Tokita . . . the second is Tokita’s diary from 1941-44. . . . Signs of Home includes plenty of examples that prove his status as an important regional artist.”—Jeff Baker, The Oregonian

This beautiful and poignant biography of Issei artist Kamekichi Tokita uses his paintings and wartime diary to vividly illustrate the experiences, uncertainties, joys, and anxieties of Japanese Americans during the World War II internment and the more optimistic times that preceded it.

Classics of Asian American Literature:

Citizen 13660
By Miné Okubo
Introduction by Christine Hong

“This forerunner to the modern graphic memoir is a must read, both for the important—and shameful—period of American history it documents and its poignant beauty.”—The Chicago Tribune

Miné Okubo’s graphic memoir of life in relocation centers in California and Utah illuminates this experience with poignant illustrations and witty, candid text. Now available with a new introduction and in a wide-format artist edition, this graphic novel can reach a new generation of readers and scholars.

Desert Exile: The Uprooting of a Japanese American Family
By Yoshiko Uchida
Introduction by Traise Yamamoto

“A sensitive, readable account that captures with insight and human warmth the feel of what it was like to be sent by one’s own government into exile in the wilderness. It is a work worthy of an unforgettable experience.”—Pacific Citizen

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, everything changed for Yoshiko Uchida. Desert Exile is the autobiographical account of her life before and during World War II. The book does more than relate the day-to-day experience of living in stalls at the Tanforan Racetrack, the assembly center just south of San Francisco, and in the Topaz, Utah, internment camp. It tells the story of the courage and strength displayed by those who were interned.

Nisei Daughter
By Monica Sone
Introduction by Marie Rose Wong

“Sone reminds us that the anti-Japanese sentiment and threat of war [was] looming over them. . . but it doesn’t stop the family members from going forward with their lives—showing the kind of strength we all wish we had.”—Samantha Pak, Northwest Asian Weekly

With charm, humor, and deep understanding, Monica Sone tells what it was like to grow up Japanese American on Seattle’s waterfront in the 1930s and to be subjected to “relocation” during World War II. Her unique and personal account is a true classic of Asian American literature.

No-No Boy
By John Okada
Foreword by Ruth Ozeki
Introduction by Lawson Fusao Inada and Frank Chin

“Asian American readers will appreciate the sensitivity and integrity with which the late John Okada wrote about his own group. He heralded the beginning of an authentic Japanese American literature.”—Gordon Hirabayashi, Pacific Affairs

Originally published in the 1950s, No-No Boy tells the story of Ichiro Yamada, a fictional version of the real-life “no-no boys.” Yamada answered “no” twice in a compulsory government questionnaire as to whether he would serve in the armed forces and swear loyalty to the United States. Unwilling to pledge himself to the country that interned him and his family, Ichiro earns two years in prison and the hostility of his family and community when he returns home to Seattle. The first edition of No-No Boy since 1979 presents this important work to new generations of readers.

Yokohama, California
By Toshio Mori
Introduction to the 2015 edition by Xiaojing Zhou

“Mori’s superbly structured short stories are . . . tender, evocative episodes of growing up as a Japanese American prior to World War II.”—San Francisco Chronicle

Yokohama, California, originally released in 1949, is the first published collection of short stories by a Japanese American. Set in a fictional community, these linked stories are alive with the people, gossip, humor, and legends of Japanese America in the 1930s and 1940s.

Also of interest:

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Stars for Freedom: Hollywood, Black Celebrities, and the Civil Rights Movement

Stars for FreedomEmilie Raymond’s Stars for Freedom turns our understanding of the civil rights movement on its head. Though popular narratives emphasize the movement’s grassroots origins, it’s equally important not to overlook the role that a handful of African American celebrities played in not only helping to fund the movement, but also in serving as ambassadors, liaisons, cheerleaders, and even foot soldiers for the  cause.

I’ve chosen to highlight this particular section from Emilie’s book because it covers a period exactly fifty years ago from this summer—a time that still resonates loudly with current events. Fifty years ago, the Voting Rights Act was passed; recently, however, the Supreme Court invalidated key parts of it. Similarly, exactly a half century ago this summer, rioting broke out in the Watts district of Los Angeles over police treatment of a black man; today, we see similar incidents in Ferguson and Baltimore as well as widespread outrage through the #BlackLivesMatter social movement.

Along with these similarities, what also stands out to me about the excerpt is Emilie’s ability to simultaneously view the movement from multiple levels:  we see comedian Dick Gregory on the streets of Watts risking life and limb with protesters; we see Harry Belafonte hustling behind the scenes writing letters and organizing last-minute benefits; and we see the grassroots Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) grappling with whether it had sold out by collaborating with glamorous celebrities. 

The result is an excerpt that, I think, demonstrates how deftly Emilie blends civil rights and entertainment histories—and it provides just a small glimpse of the exciting book she has written. I hope you enjoy reading this piece as much as I enjoyed working with Emilie on this amazing book!

Ranjit Arab, senior acquisitions editor, UW Press

On August 6, 1965, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, and Dick Gregory commemorated the event at the Sumter County Courthouse lawn in Americus, Georgia, with a group of avid African American registrants. Surrounded by a cordon of white state troopers in white helmets who were dispatched to protect them, Gregory observed, “When everybody gets to voting, we are going to get us some black faces under those white helmets. And it ain’t going to be from no suntan neither.” He foretold of the dramatic effect voting rights would have on the daily lives of African Americans.

Only one week later, the comedian rushed to the Watts district in Los Angeles, where a race riot was threatening to destroy the city. Sparked by the arrest of a young black man for drunk driving, the altercation had grown into a widespread armed confrontation with the Los Angeles police and the National Guard. Wanting “to help in any way I could,” Gregory drove into the riot area near a housing project and was shocked by the “stark and horrible expression of raw violence.” He started to walk between law enforcement and the rioters when “the bullets started to fly.” When he was shot in the leg, Gregory rushed into the street, yelling “Alright goddamn, it. You shot me, now go home!” With a burning wound, Gregory was in disbelief that “after all the times I’d been arrested by red neck deputies in the past four years, here I was shot by a black man in California.” He charged forth, believing “somebody had to stop it.” On that street corner at least, the rioters retreated. Across town, Belafonte, already booked at the Greek Theater, continued to perform nightly when most other public venues were closed. Admittedly “apprehensive” about potential problems in an audience of five thousand, he also saw it “as a challenge” to show a capacity for unity in such dreadful circumstances. Belafonte even brought in youngsters from Watts to give them safe haven. The riot lasted six days and resulted in thirty-four deaths and $40 million in property damage. August 1965 foretold of the movement’s impending “crisis of victory” and of the stars’ varying roles in its progression.

Harry Belafonte, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Sammy Davis, Jr. at the “Broadway Answers Selma” benefit show at the Majestic Theatre.

Harry Belafonte, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Sammy Davis, Jr. at the “Broadway Answers Selma” benefit show at the Majestic Theatre.

For the time being, however, the leading civil rights organizations optimistically planned their futures, and celebrities were instrumental in their efforts. In March 1965, the New York [FOS Friends of SNCC] office held a workshop emphasizing their new fund-raiser of choice: the house party. Although such events were admittedly “small, exclusive receptions,” the group still called their efforts “a grassroots public relations program.” They instructed workshop attendees to ask themselves “Is the money there?” before planning a party. “Regardless of their goodwill, a constituency must be people of means or the funds realized will be commensurately small,” the literature explained. The program emphasized cultivating “prominent” and “wealthy” individuals, as well as members of the media, and highlighted obtaining artists for the parties. Another development from the conference included the creation of a contact information sheet (with addresses and phone numbers) for the artists willing to sponsor SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee] events. This long-awaited list could be distributed among the FOS groups and made for more streamlined planning. It also reflected the importance of Selma to bringing more celebrities into the movement on a more permanent basis. The list included the regulars from the 1964 house parties, as well as those individuals, such as Tony Bennett and Shelley Winters, who had marched in Selma, and those, such as Alan Arkin and Eli Wallach, who had participated in Davis’s Broadway benefit. FOS groups went on to hold an unprecedented number of star-studded house parties in the coming months.

The successful house parties led to benefit concerts devoted to SNCC alone. With the help of Julie Belafonte and Diahann Carroll, the New York FOS organized an elegant black-tie dinner and dance at the New York Hilton Grand Ballroom on April 25, 1965, to benefit freedom schools and voter registration drives in the South. The program featured Harry Belafonte, Brando, Carroll, Sammy Davis, Jr., Streisand, Sonny Terry, and Brownie McGhee. Tickets cost $100 per person, and a number of celebrities and wealthy New Yorkers sponsored entire tables at $1,000 each. SNCC netted an estimated $80,000 from the event, and held a similar dinner, again hosted by Julie Belafonte and Carroll, the following year.

The organization also succeeded at having more parties in Los Angeles. Brando headlined one party at a Hollywood home in June 1965. Poitier cohosted a SNCC fund-raiser with Belafonte, Elizabeth Taylor, Gregory and Richard Burton, Burt Lancaster, Paul Newman, and Mike Nichols at a posh Beverly Hills discotheque in August. The event resembled a movie premiere. Such guests as the actors James Garner, Lauren Bacall, and Lee Marvin, and the filmmakers Stanley Kramer, Arthur Penn, and Robert Blumofe arrived wearing tuxedoes, long gowns, and lavish jewelry. The event was held only a few days after the Watts riot, and Poitier used it to plead for funds, arguing the disturbances were “only a symptom of the underlying social diseases eating away at the fabric of society.” The stars shouted their pledges, challenging one another until they reached $50,000. The party was written up in the New York Times for the “surprising number of Hollywood luminaries” willing to publicly support the “most radical and controversial of all the major civil rights organizations.”

Since the parties targeted only a select few, “for the balance of the community,” SNCC used “broadside direct mail appeals for money,” but it employed celebrities for this task as well. Belafonte penned a series of letters in the spring and summer of 1966, alerting recipients of the continued impoverished and terrorized conditions of the rural South and pleading for funds. Ultimately, the organization raised $637,736 in 1965, its highest income to date, and double what it had raised in 1963 before house parties and close collaboration with celebrities became routine.

Despite this impressive fund-raising record, SNCC did not always manage its celebrity supporters effectively. This largely stemmed from a lack of organization outside of the New York office. FOS groups failed to coordinate with the New York staff members, and wealthy supporters complained of being inundated with requests for parties and benefits. Betty Garman, a fund-raiser in the New York office, admitted, “I don’t know they are sending letters off and thus can’t explain that this is not the way to obtain talent for concerts, etc.” She expressed confidence only in the Bay Area (San Francisco), Boston, and New York groups as being “competent” to handle major events; Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington was “where smaller events could be planned.” A Philadelphia FOS volunteer, however, complained, “We cannot understand how it is that New York can easily have a dozen top stars where not one can be available for Philadelphia.” She reported that they had started plans for parties, “but on one condition. We must have top name stars like Harry Belafonte, Sammy Davis, Jr., [opera star] Leontyne Rice, Marlon Brando, Charlton Heston” or “big fund raising in Philly is a dead issue.” Meanwhile, a report on fund-raising at the Baltimore FOS office expressed disappointment that despite its proximity to Washington and its potential to obtain “big-name people,” the full-time staffer there “somehow . . . does not follow up.”

Moreover, SNCC bungled some lucrative opportunities. A celebrity billiard tournament to be chaired by James Garner, cochaired by Steve Allen, Milton Berle, and Sammy Davis, Jr., and held in Los Angeles in May 1966 had to be aborted within a week of the event due to disorganization and friction among the Los Angeles FOS activists. One embarrassed SNCC organizer admitted, “I feel very badly about this because I have had contact with all these stars in the past and as you can understand, it can leave a feeling of ill-will.” The event would have brought in a number Hollywood’s white stars, such as James Coburn and Dennis Hopper, and rising black entertainers such as Bill Cosby and Ivan Dixon, who were rather new to the movement, as well as many others who had done little civil rights work since the Prop 14 campaign. Fifty-seven celebrity participants had to be notified of the cancellation. SNCC likewise failed to follow through on a benefit concert with Frank Sinatra and benefit screenings of the short film Ivanhoe Donaldson (1964) about one of its own activists. The film’s distributor offered to screen previews in New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, but after seeing little follow-through, complained about “the lack of any action at SNCC.” These lapses resulted largely from SNCC’s unusual makeup as an organization without a membership or a traditional hierarchical structure.

They also perhaps reflected a growing discomfort within SNCC about its connection to wealthy liberals. In a Northern staff meeting in 1965, several activists raised concerns that SNCC was becoming “elitist” due in part to its income stream. Indeed, after the fund-raiser in Beverly Hills, Belafonte acknowledged, “The irony of partying at a discotheque was not lost on anyone.” Stokely Carmichael became SNCC chair that same year. He was openly critical of nonviolence, and Belafonte felt Carmichael and his cohorts had begun to view him as “part of the establishment,” which in the 1960s was tantamount to treason. James Forman denied that guilt-ridden liberals constituted SNCC’s support. “I think they are sophisticated people who understand the importance of what we are doing,” he asserted. “These are people who have been red-baited, who pulled out of politics in the late ’40s, and have been waiting for a new generation of political activists.” He cited Belafonte as an example, saying, “Harry Belafonte, who is wealthy, is more radical than anyone in SNCC. He really understands the social forces involved.” Longtime activist Bob Zellner said, “Most SNCC folks were grateful for all political and financial help from whatever the source.” Betty Garman, another SNCC activist engaged in fund-raising, concurred, saying that the fund-raisers were “helping us to tap resources we could never reach ourselves because of who we are and how we work. On the other hand,” she continued, “there is some concern that the people who give wouldn’t give to us if they knew more about who we are and how we work.”

SNCC attempted to deal with these contradictions and critiques. Under pressure from New York FOS volunteers to hire a salaried professional fund-raiser, Forman repeatedly refused, saying “that would destroy the philosophy of the organization.” When those at the winter 1965 fund-raising conference continued to insist on such a position, Forman took on the responsibilities, but not a pay increase, himself. Meanwhile, Betty Garman encouraged FOS offices to reach out to “all sections of a community” in broader programs. She challenged the advice pushed at the fund-raising conference in terms of pursuing elite donors. Acknowledging that “house parties work,” she also insisted “they work on all levels of a community. Some people think of a house party as a way to raise BIG money—which means a fancy house and a star and expensive food and free drinks and NAME people. But there is no reason to feel,” she continued, “that a house party cannot be successful if it raises $50 or $100 or $200,” as long as SNCC held many such parties. Thus, SNCC could “involve people,” meaning a broad cross-section of average folks. Others in the organization expressed concern that if students wanted to begin direct action in the urban North, they could well find themselves in conflict with the very liberals that supported the Southern projects. This anxiety led SNCC activists to brainstorm how to reach more blacks in Northern ghettoes and in the South, and, ironically given SNCC’s suspicion of the NAACP, the black middle class. This debate would come to naught later in the decade due to radical policy changes within SNCC, but it foreshadowed a growing critique of liberal celebrity activism and its paradoxes.