Telling the Stories of Internment – Reflections from the Western Office

Posted on: February 20th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

It is remarkable to consider the sheer range of people and communities impacted by Executive Order 9066. In honor of yesterday’s Day of Remembrance, we wanted to share some of the work the Western Office has done to preserve historic sites related to Japanese-American internment in World War II. While this is by no means a complete list of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s involvement in this issue, the examples below showcase the wide variety of places affected by the internment order. This includes homes and stores abandoned during the War, as well as the internment camps, often located in extreme climates and operated as prisons for ordinary citizens.

The protection of these places allows us to tell an important, though tragic, story in American history. It was a time when the highest powers of our government disregarded the constitutional guarantees of a group based on their race and our highest court turned its head. More than two-thirds of those detained were American citizens, many of whom would later serve their country. The crime that caused a person to be interred, as Justice Jackson famously observed in his dissent in Korematsu v. United States, was “merely of being present in the state whereof he is a citizen, near the place where he was born, and where all his life he has lived.”

Here a few of the points of contact we’ve been honored to have:

Manzanar National Historic Site, Independence, California
Manzanar was one of ten internment camps operated by the War Relocation Authority. The National Historic Site, operated by the National Park Service, received a $150,000 grant in 2005 to restore its perimeter fence from Save America’s Treasures (SAT), a partnership between the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the White House Millennium Council.

Tule Lake Segregation Center, Newell, California
In 2002 the National Trust awarded the Tule Lake Committee a grant to develop a strategic action plan for preservation of the property. In 2009, the Tule Lake Segregation Center was declared part of the new "World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument." It is hoped that the Monument designation will increase national attention to the preservation needs of the remaining buildings at Tule Lake.

Poston Internment Camp Buildings, Parker, Arizona
In 2003, we gave the Ahakhav Tribal Preserve a grant to hire a consultant to facilitate a three-day workshop to develop strategies to restore and preserve the existing Poston Internment Camp buildings, including an adobe school building. Participants included members of the Colorado River Indian Tribes, former internees, and residents of Parker. In 1942, 18,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry were sent to three concentration camps at Poston.

Honouliuli Gulch, Oahu, Hawai’i
The Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai’i, Honolulu, in June 2007 was awarded a grant to help conduct an archaeological survey of the site of a former WWII interment camp at Honouliuli on Oahu (1943-1945). The survey recently completed includes detailed site mapping, feature and artifact recording, photography and narrative descriptions.

The Harada House, Riverside, California
In 1915 Jukichi Harada, a first generation Japanese immigrant, purchased the c.1880 Harada house and deeded it to his American-born children. Though the State tried to prevent the transfer based on the grossly restrictive Alien Land Law, Harada succeeded in convincing the California Supreme Court to permit the transfer. In 1942 the Harada family was “relocated” to internment camps from the modest house and returned to it again after the war, occupying it until 2000. Today the house is a National Historic Landmark. In 2003, the Riverside Municipal Museum received a grant from the Western Office to support a facilitated visioning workshop for the preservation, interpretation, and financial sustainability of the Harada House. Director Anthea Hartig serves on the advisory committee for the house to this day.

Far East Building, Los Angeles, California
In 2002, Little Tokyo Service Center Community Development Corporation was awarded a grant from the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Fund for Historic Interiors to support an interior preservation plan and cultural interpretation of the 1909 Far East Building. Owned by a Chinese family, the Far East was able to stay open during the relocation of Japanese Americans during WWII and remains a symbol of Chinese- Japanese friendship.

For those interested to learn more, a definitive resource for understanding Japanese Internment is Jeff Burton’s landmark study “Confinement and Ethnicity."

– Brian Turner

Brian Turner is the law fellow at the Western Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Grading the Stimulus: What Happened to Federal Funding to Repair Our Schools?

Posted on: February 20th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

Photo taken by Washington, D.C. students through the Critical Exposure program that illustrates the need for funds to rehabilitate school facilities.

The roller-coaster ride that was the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act ended on a downswing for the modernization of our nation’s schools.

Down from the high when the House of Representatives passed a $14 billion school construction bill, preservationists now face an uphill fight for a portion of the state stabilization fund for school repair and renovation.

For my policy job at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, I read newspaper article after newspaper article about school construction. During the weeks that the stimulus legislation was making its way through Washington, it was exciting (and maybe a little worrying as well) to read dozens of media clippings from around the country focusing on school boards that were delaying decisions about their facilities in anticipation of federal money. Exciting because, as a preservationist, I believe that investing in our existing schools and updating them with 21st century technology means that they’ll be around for another 100+ years. On the other hand, I was scared because there was no guarantee that the federal money would ever arrive and actually be spent on school modernization.

Sadly, provisions to modernize some of our worst-off buildings for our neediest children were removed from the Senate version of the recovery bill. However, thanks to a last minute push during the conference period, $8.79 billion was added to the state stabilization fund for K-12 and higher education school repair and renovation.

Photo taken by Washington, D.C. students through the Critical Exposure program that illustrates the need for funds to rehabilitate school facilities.

But even that isn’t as cheery as it sounds.

The final language that President Obama signed into law this week indicates that state stabilization funding “may” be spent on school repair or renovation, and that there are no guidelines on its allocation or use. The decision of whether and how funding should be spent is left completely to the states. Sadly, because preservationists are accustomed to fighting for scraps at the funding table, we shouldn’t be surprised that once again we have our work cut out for us.

In the plus column, there’s $20 billion for a new credit enhancement program in the tax code designed to both improve the ability of school districts to borrow and to reduce the overall cost of that borrowing. But most likely, this will only help the more affluent school districts with the resources to actually pay back the loans.

As many of us know first hand, rehabilitation is labor intensive. That’s why the economists were excited about school modernization; the number crunchers understood that jobs - many jobs - could be created.

But it turns out that those most concerned about the future of our children’s schools didn't finish their homework. Amid the many voices shouting at Congress, it was difficult to show that schools - just like roads and bridges - are an important part of our country’s infrastructure. We were unable to convey that existing funding for our nation’s public school facilities is inadequate, and therefore we now face a huge backlog of deferred maintenance.

Now it’s time for our “make-up test” – one that we’ll take to every statehouse and governor’s office across the nation. I believe it’s critical for preservationists to try again in making the "fix-it first” case, this time to state officials. If we continue to allow our older schools to deteriorate, a case for their abandonment and demolition will be easier and easier to make.

- Renee Kuhlman

Renee Kuhlman is the director of special projects for the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Center for State and Local Policy. Visit our neighborhood schools page to learn more about the work she and her many colleagues nationwide are doing to protect the older schools that anchor many of our historic communities. Also, check out our updated stimulus tracker and analysis page to learn more about what the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act means for preservationists.

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.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

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.