The Great Unknown and the Unknown Great

Recognizing Japanese American lesbians’ activism, then and now

The season for gay pride is upon us. This year, there is extra cause for celebration with the selection of professor Amy Sueyoshi, a community activist and leading historian of queer Asian Americans, as a grand marshal of the San Francisco Pride parade. In addition to Sueyoshi’s own considerable qualities, the choice is gratifying on […]

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: Biracial MIS veteran Clarke Kawakami’s multifaceted legacy

Clarke Hiroshi Kawakami, a man who made his mark in many different fields, was born in Momence, Ill. in 1909. His mother was Mildred Clarke, a white American, and his father was the well-known Issei author and journalist Kiyoshi Karl Kawakami. Kiyoshi Kawakami was born in Yonezawa, Japan in the 1870s (most early sources claim […]

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: The JACL’s historic support for marriage equality

Ever since I have been writing my Nichi Bei column “The Great Unknown and the Unknown Great” in 2007, I have devoted an annual column to studying the history of Japanese American sexuality, and in particular in-group attitudes toward homosexuality and the presence of gays and lesbians. I am proud to continue that tradition with […]

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: Regan v. King and the origins of the Black-Nisei alliance

The 1942-1943 federal court case Regan v. King, which arose out of a lawsuit by the American Legion and the Native Sons of the Golden West to disenfranchise American citizens of Japanese origin, marks a landmark in legal struggles for civil rights. Not only did the court’s decision reaffirm the principle of birthright citizenship of […]

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: Statements on homosexuality in JA press helps trace public’s opinion

As devoted readers of Nichi Bei may already be aware, I maintain an annual tradition. Each June, in honor of LGBT History Month, I devote an column of “The Great Unknown” to revealing the Queer history of Japanese Americans. Past columns have dealt with topics such as homosocial intimacy among the Issei; the development of […]

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: The incarceration of Indonesians in the United States: An untold story

Editor’s Note: This is the first part of a series. Some time ago, I was reading back issues of the Pacific Citizen, the national Japanese American Citizens League newspaper, and I came across a special issue from 1967 that marked the 25th anniversary of Executive Order 9066. There I found a memoir by Edison Uno, […]

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: FDR’s acts of diplomacy through his friendships with Japanese

A central figure in Japanese American history is President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In my first book, “By Order of the President” (2001), I looked at Roosevelt’s signing of Executive Order 9066, which led to the mass incarceration of some 120,000 persons of Japanese descent in American concentration camps. One of my book’s main arguments was […]

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: Queer non-Nikkei figures in Japanese American history (Part V)

  (Editor’s Note: This is the last of a multi-part series) One especially noteworthy aspect of Karon Kehoe’s groundbreaking Japanese American camp novel “City in the Sun,” published in 1946, is its portrait of sexuality in camp, especially alternative sexuality, a point that raises interesting questions both for scholars of literature and for historians. In […]

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: How the Dodgers helped to expand the racial and geographical frontiers of baseball

Today’s column, rather than recounting an individual history, takes up the question of how Japanese American history is told, and who gets represented. In the years since the awarding of redress in 1988, we have seen a great expansion in the stories that get covered under Japanese American history, and in the diversity and depth […]

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: Queer non-Nikkei figures in Japanese American history (Part IV)

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth and final part of an ongoing series. Monika Kehoe’s wartime position as director of adult education at the Gila River War Relocation Authority concentration camp led to a postwar career that took her around the world, pursuing interests in multiple fields and working variously as instructor, athletics coach, administrator, […]

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