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.

As the Ink Dries: The Economic Stimulus & Historic Preservation

Posted on: February 17th, 2009 by Jason Clement

 

Moments ago, President Barack Obama signed the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law in Denver, Colorado, the city where he claimed the Democratic nomination for president.

With the final draft clocking in at over 1,000 pages, this extensive bill is easily one of the most costly pieces of legislation in the history of the United States. And, given the tough times we're all facing, it's also one of the most critical.

Just in time for this historic event, we have updated our stimulus tracker and analysis page to reflect what the final draft means for preservationists. We invite you to not only take a look at the bottom line, but to also sound off using our open comments feature.

What do you think the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act means for 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.

Jason Clement

Jason Clement

Jason Lloyd Clement is the director of community outreach at the National Trust, which is really just a fancy way of saying he’s a professional place lover. For him, any day that involves a bike, a camera, and a gritty historic neighborhood is basically the best day ever.

How Poetry Saved a Building: The Re-Opening of Angel Island Immigration Station

Posted on: February 17th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

A packed tent at the re-opening ceremony.

A packed tent at the re-opening ceremony.

It was an inspiring moment. Despite pouring Pacific rains and high wind warnings, I joined an enthusiastic group of more than 500 on the ferry at San Francisco’s Pier 41 on Sunday morning to witness history. We were headed for the grand re-opening of the Angel Island Immigration Station, this time, thankfully, not as a detention facility, but a newly restored interpretive site.

Often described as the “Ellis Island of the West,” more than 350,000 immigrants were processed, and sometimes detained at Angel Island before they were allowed entry to San Francisco and could call America home. The arrivals not only braved an uncertain future, far from the world they knew, but entered a hostile world where racism was written expressly into law. Starting in 1882 the Chinese, who made up the majority of the immigrants processed at Angel Island, were subject to the Chinese Exclusion Act, a race-based law that persevered for an astonishing 61 years. The Immigration Act of 1924 made that law even more severe and established strict quotas on immigration with a particular focus on Asian countries.

The newly restored detention barracks.

The newly restored detention barracks.

The centerpiece of Sunday’s ceremony was the completed restoration of the building that served as detention barracks for immigrants from 80 countries. In 1970 the building was in serious disrepair and slated for demolition. It was then that Alexander Weiss, a ranger with the National Park Service, made an astonishing discovery. Inventorying the building by flashlight, Weiss stumbled upon Chinese characters carved into the wooden walls where the detainees were housed. Experts soon revealed that the characters formed poems, many fully intact. These written memories have helped us understand the emotional experiences of newcomers to the West in the early 20th Century. On Sunday I heard the children of detainees, most of whom have now passed away, express gratitude for the restoration. The stories of crossing the ocean, they explained, were often too emotionally difficult for their parents to tell.

The translation for this carved poem is at left.

Translation at left, in italics.

“Detained in this wooden house
for several tens of days,
it is all because of the Mexican exclusion law, which implicates me.
It’s a pity heroes have no way
of exercising their prowess.
I can only await the word so I can snap Zu’s whip.

From now on,
I am departing far from this building.
All of my fellow villagers are rejoicing with me.
Don’t say that everything within
is Western styled.
Even if it is built of jade, it has
turned into a cage."

... Read More →

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.