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Day of Remembrance Links the Present to the Past

Posted on: February 19th, 2009 by Guest Writer 1 Comment

 

Minidoka in the 1940s.

Minidoka in the 1940s.

In February 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which ordered the forced removal of 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry from their homes on the West Coast and parts of Hawai`i. They were unconstitutionally imprisoned during World War II in 10 War Relocation Authority (WRA) Camps and in numerous Justice Department prisons throughout the United States.

Today, February 19, is annually commemorated as “Day of Remembrance” by Japanese American communities. A grassroots movement to petition the government for an official apology and reparations began in the 1970s and events like Day of Remembrance, organized in Japanese American communities throughout the country, sparked the successful grassroots redress campaign that culminated with the signing of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. This Act resulted in an official apology by the United States government and token reparations to any living Japanese American incarcerated during the war.

The first Day of Remembrance was held on Thanksgiving weekend 1978 at the Puyallup Fairgrounds, which had been used as temporary incarceration center known as “Camp Harmony” in the state of Washington. Thousands of people participated and demonstrated that the Japanese American community had not forgotten how they and their families were treated during World War II.

In the years following, Day of Remembrance events (held on or close to February 19) have been held annually. While for many Japanese Americans it brings back painful memories of a dark chapter in American history, the day also provides an ongoing reminder about the dangers of ever repeating the same offense against other individuals. In recalling the events of February 1942, Day of Remembrance is a reminder to all Americans about the need to protect civil liberties for all and to honor all who fought—and continue to fight—for freedom and equality among all people.

Efforts to ensure that these memories and lessons are maintained for generations to come have also continued through the preservation and interpretation of WWII Japanese American historical sites, such as the War Relocation Camp sites, Assembly Center sites, and other significant markers that are powerful remembrances of the past and its relevancy for today and the future. (In 2007, the National Trust for Historic Preservation listed one such site, Minidoka Internment National Monument, to our annual 11 Most Endangered Places list.)

For access to other Day of Remembrance, redress, and additional related information, visit DiscoverNikkei.org—a Web site coordinated by the Japanese American National Museum.

-- Irene Hirano

Irene Hirano is a trustee of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, as well as executive advisor and former president and CEO of the Japanese-American National Museum in Los Angeles.

- Excerpts taken from Achieving the Impossible Dream: How Japanese Americans Obtained Redress, by Mitchell T. Maki, Harry H.L. Kitano, and S. Megan Berthold and the websites of the Japanese American National Museum, www.janm.org, DiscoverNikkei, www.discovernikkei.org and www.densho.org.

Updated: to correct Ms. Hirano's current affiliation with the Japanese-American National Museum.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

 

We brought food for thought to entirely new levels during our Lincoln-inspired "teach-in" last week.

Last week marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln and, to celebrate the bicentennial, the History Channel sponsored a “teach-in” campaign aimed at getting as many teachers as possible to bring the 16th President of the United States into their lessons plans on the big day.

Lucky for us, our teacher, Paul “Lash” LaRue, was on it.

During last Thursday’s Research History class, Lash integrated the legendary president into fifth period in a way that informed us all of the many amazing obstacles and challenges he overcame throughout his time in office.

First, we watched an HBO special entitled Unchained Memories: Readings From the Slave Narratives. This was a really interesting (and rewarding) part of the day. Basically, for the last ten weeks, we have all been focused as a class on transcribing interview after interview with some of our country’s World War II veterans. It was refreshing to see how such tedious work (as was done to capture the stories of the slaves in the video) could be turned into such a productive resource that saves something important for future generations.

We also watched a webcast that was a question and answer session between several inquisitive teenagers and three prominent Lincoln scholars. One of the most interesting parts of the webcast was hearing from the scholars because they were extremely passionate (and of course knowledgeable) about Lincoln. One of them expressed that even though President Lincoln had many scars on his time in office - such as suspending habeas corpus - he accomplished many more good things, like reuniting the country in a time of deep division.

The following are just a few opinions from my fellow classmates about our Lincoln “teach-in” day:

"The most fascinating part of the day was watching the video about the slave diaries. It was neat to see their stories documented just as we are documenting those of World War II veterans. My hope is that one day our hard work will become a presentation just like this video.” - Jackie P.

“My favorite part of the day was the video about the slave stories. It ties deeply into our daily activities because we’re doing the same thing that the preservationists who made the video did. Hopefully, our efforts will someday give World War II veterans the same forum for their deserving stories.” - Tim K.

“My favorite part about the ‘teach-in’ was watching the HBO documentary. You learn so much more about how slavery was back then when you see and hear transcribed stories from former slaves. It’s really cool that we are doing something in our class that will be read many, many years from now.” - Nicole F.

And there you have it: all it took was a good documentary (and a smorgasbord of equally good snacks) to make countless hours spent playing, stopping, rewinding and fast forwarding tapped transcripts all totally worth it.

- Matt M.

Matt M. is a senior at Washington High School in Washington Court House, Ohio. This semester, he’ll be working with his Research History classmates to document and preserve Good Hope Cemetery. Stay tuned as they share their experiences here on our blog and on their Flickr photostream.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

Partners in the Field: “…for the gathering of thousands of souls”

Posted on: February 18th, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

Mother Bethel AME Church, Philadelphia

Mother Bethel AME Church, Philadelphia

One of the great things about being a Partners in the Field representative is that I get to be part of preserving places that inspire and uplift. Philadelphia's Mother Bethel AME Church, founded in 1787, is just such a place. Over the years it has provided a pulpit for African-American voices raised in protest against slavery and segregation and speaking out for freedom and truth. Founded by slaves and former slaves, Mother Bethel stands on the oldest parcel of land in the United States continuously owned by African-Americans. Its founders were determined to build a new life and to build a church that could bear witness to the transformative speeches of Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth and more.

Today, the Church, a National Historic Landmark, continues to serve as a mecca for those voices. Called Bethel “for the gathering in of thousands of souls,” it is the mother church of the nation's first black denomination. Built in 1889 in the Romanesque Revival style, it is the fourth church structure on the site. In one of its first partnerships formed under the Partners in the Field initiative, the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia is working in collaboration with Mother Bethel to host a reading and book signing for There Must Come a Change: Murder, Baseball and the Battle for Equality in Civil War America, by veteran journalists Dan Biddle and Murray Dubin.

The book tells the stories of men and women whose names may be relatively unfamiliar – Martin R. Delany, Charles and Sarah Remond, Charles and John Mercer Langston, Caroline Le Count, Henry Highland Garnet, Octavius and William Catto, Fanny Jackson Coppin – yet who were heroic, canny and courageous leaders of 19th century Philadelphia. These faithful and fearless activists fought for equality in Philadelphia nearly 100 years before Dr. Martin Luther King. Mother Bethel, built and sustained by Philadelphia’s earliest African Americans, will continue to be a gathering place for generations to come. The Alliance is thrilled to be working with partnership to preserve this landmark and the stories it has to tell.

-- Melissa Jest

Melissa Jest is the National Trust for Historic Preservation Partners in the Field Rep/ Neighborhood Preservation Program Coordinator for Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia.

Updated: to indicate that only a reading is currently planned at Mother Bethel.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

Teaching Preservation: Looking Back at Lincoln

Posted on: February 12th, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

Something

Notes from the Teacher's Desk

Today is a big deal for history buffs like me.

It is, after all, the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States.

As you know from my previous posts here, I teach a senior-level class at Washington High School in Washington Court House, Ohio called Research History. Basically, my goal is to get students out from under the florescent lights (they generally don't object) and into the field for history and preservation-focused service learning projects. And, well, it's always on days like today that I simply can't resist a stroll down Memory Lane to reminisce about their contributions over the years to telling history, including Mr. Lincoln's amazing legacy.

Between 2004 and 2006, my students and I partnered with President Lincoln's Cottage, a National Trust historic site located in Washington, D.C. We were tasked by the site's curator and administrator to explore the Civil War era-burials at the United States Soldiers' and Airmen's Home National Cemetery. In doing their research, my kids matched burial data with data provided by the U.S. Quartermaster's Roll of Honor, which included regiment, company and rank information on original burials (approximately 5,200) between 1861 and the opening of Arlington National Cemetery.

To this day, it warms my heart knowing that the final data we provided to President Lincoln's Cottage was fundamental in their interpretation of the most significant historic site associated with Lincoln's presidency aside from the White House itself.

But this wasn't my course's first database project, and it certainly wouldn't be the last.

During the 2001-2002 school year, my students researched Ohio grave registration cards, which were complied by the state to document all veteran burials. They mulled over the 100,000-card database looking specifically for African-American Civil War veterans, referred to back in the day as United States Colored Troops (USCT). Through our research, we identified approximately 3,050 USCT veterans buried in 86 of Ohio's 88 counties. From there, my students created a website documenting each listing, where to this day you can find veterans by county and then by cemetery.

Moving forward a few years on Memory Lane, my class partnered with the Gist Settlement Cemetery Project during the 2006-2007 school year. The Highland Gist Settlement was established in 1835 by the emancipated slaves of Samuel Gist. This unique community is located roughly 25 miles south of Washington Court House. During our project there, my students not only read and photographed all of the headstones, but also measured distances between the headstones to create a scale map of the cemetery. The final data was presented to the Penn Township Trustees and can still be viewed online.

Now, all of this looking back really gives me hope for what my students will accomplish this semester in our new partnership with the Wayne Township Trustees and Good Hope Cemetery. Thanks to the hard work of Alyssa and Lynne, we are already off to a running start with our 2,100-name database, which will (among many other things) document the military service of those buried in the cemetery.

I invite you all to stay tuned to PreservationNation.org and our blog over the coming weeks and months as our project continues to unfold. With any luck, the winter weather here in Ohio will get better, and you'll see more and more blog posts, photo essays, and maybe even a video or two of my students doing what they do best: preserving history and having a blast doing it.

- Paul LaRue

Paul LaRue teaches Research History at Washington High School in Washington Court House, Ohio. The ultimate “hands-on” classroom experience, his course takes students into the field to learn about preservation and community service. Stay tuned this semester as Paul and his students document their project at Good Hope Cemetery here on our blog and on their Flickr photostream. Also, keep an eye out for future “Notes from the Teacher’s Desk” columns from Paul himself.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

Teaching Preservation: Databases, Transcripts & Prom

Posted on: February 10th, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

Prom, like preservation, is a big deal in Research History class.

Last week, we had inches upon inches of everything winter has to offer. Today, it’s dreary and raining off and on. Tomorrow, the weatherman says we’re in for 55 mph wind gusts and severe thunderstorms, which of course will be followed by a 70% chance of snow. Great conditions for outside work in a graveyard, wouldn’t you say?

Because Mother Nature is doing a really good job of keeping us indoors these days, I thought I’d use my time in the blog spotlight to further introduce you to our class. So, here you have it - a day in the life, Research History style.

First of all, walking into Paul “Lash” LaRue’s (our fearless leader/mentor/teacher/friend) class is basically like walking into organized chaos - in a good way of course.

Every student has his or her own pet project. For example, Jon and I are currently hard at work transcribing (and then typing) Jon’s grandfather’s personal stories from the front lines of World War II. Jon says this is the first time Sam, his grandfather, has really opened up to him (and others) about his past in the military. He’s a fabulous person to learn about and we’ve all really bonded with him. We love you, Sam!

Also working on the Veterans History Project are Erin, Brittany, and Ross. Ross usually starts his day by skimming the Dayton Daily News for relevant new stories, which is followed by an occasional granola bar. All while Brittany and Erin transcribe nonstop.

Taylor, also known as our “go-to gal,” is another member of our eclectic crew. She bounces around every day working on various projects, including filling in as Lash’s assistant whenever needed. From transcribing stories to helping Lash type up important documents, Taylor keeps all the balls in the air.

You probably remember them from their previous blog post, but Lynne M. and Alyssa S. are still busy organizing the Good Hope Cemetery headstone readings. Lynne says, “The project takes a really long time to do, but I want it done right. It’s a lot of fun.” To which Alyssa adds, “Yup, it’s very tedious. However, it’s worth it knowing that we are preserving history.”

Across the room, Lash chats with me while munching on animal crackers. “The class is composed of students working on several tasks. On any given day and at any given moment, there could be three or four different projects being worked on in class. So, as a result, I spend most of my time roaming around from student to student. We genuinely have fun in here!”

So, since we all do our own thing from day to day, you might be wondering if we have anything in common. The answer is yes, and in one word I will tell you what it is: prom!

It’s literally just months away (that’s not a lot of time when you have a wardrobe to plan), and in a room full of girls, it’s often a topic of conversation right before we head to lunch (which is really brunch since we have to eat at 10:30 a.m., but hey, that’s a different story). We look at dresses in magazines and talk about themes for the dance. Believe it or not, Lash often chimes in with his own opinions on the issue.

So really, if you want to know what a day is like in Research History, it depends on who you are, what day it is and what mood you’re in. The one constant? A good time and a job well done.

- Sara S.

Sara S. is a senior at Washington High School in Washington Court House, Ohio. This semester, she'll be working with her Research History classmates to document and preserve Good Hope Cemetery. Stay tuned as they share their experiences here on our blog and on their Flickr photostream.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.