History

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: Hapa baritone George Hirose’s theatrical story

One of the pleasures of working on “The Great Unknown” is the joy of running across unfamiliar names, looking into their stories, and uncovering information that not only is interesting, but makes the history we study richer and more complex. A case in point is that of George and Arthur Hirose, a pair of hapa […]

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: The civil rights politics and complexities of Nikkei ‘coming out’ as LGBT

This week’s entry represents the seventh annual column that I have produced for the Nichi Bei on the queer heritage of Japanese Americans. In past entries, I have explored such topics as the varieties of Issei sexuality, the turn to Western-style family models (and homophobia) within Japanese communities, and the community’s turn to support for […]

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: Early play took an unflinching look at the trauma of the wartime incarceration

The form of this week’s column is new for me. Rather than focusing on individual Japanese Americans, it covers (or recovers) the unknown story of a pioneering theatrical drama, by the name of “Tondemonai — Never Happen!” It premiered in Los Angeles in May of 1970, and was the first commercially-produced play to dramatize the […]

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: Woody Guthrie, folk singer, songwriter and musician, and friend of Nikkei

Japanese Americans were not able to find many outside supporters during the early days of World War II. Even in cosmopolitan New York, Socialist party leader Norman Thomas, the only national political figure to oppose Executive Order 9066, later stated that he never in his life found an issue on which it was so difficult […]

TULE LAKE PRESERVATION: A progress report

Tule Lake’s segregation history resonates with America’s deepest held beliefs — about standing up for one’s convictions and challenging those who have abused power. Yet, perversely, due to lingering World War II propaganda that cast Japanese American challengers to the unjust incarceration as disloyal subversives, our community has been slow to recognize courageous individual responses […]

ISLANDERS IN EXILE: The history of Bainbridge, Terminal Island Nikkei

Off the Pacific Coast, the historic Japanese villages of Terminal Island in Southern California’s San Pedro Bay and Bainbridge Island in the Pacific Northwest’s Puget Sound share attributes as close-knit, cohesive, and self-contained communities with abrupt converging histories. From the early 1900s, while the Issei worked hard in fishing and canneries at Fish Harbor, and […]

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: A tribute to Dr. Setsuko Matsunaga Nishi, sociologist, activist and race relations advocate

This week’s column focuses on the distinguished sociologist and activist Dr. Setsuko Matsunaga Nishi, a pioneering scholar of race relations who died Nov. 18, 2012. Unlike virtually all the people I write about in “Great Unknown,” I got to know her personally. Because of our friendship and my knowledge of her career, I helped the […]

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: Poet, writer Mary Oyama Mittwer championed literary and intellectual exchanges

One astounding aspect of Japanese American life is the number of accomplished families — clans that gave birth to multiple members who made names for themselves in different fields of endeavor. I recently had the occasion to work on the Tajiri family, which produced in one generation the journalists Larry and Yoshiko Tajiri, the photographer […]

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: Revisiting the JACL’s historic debate over same-sex marriage

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect the NAACP’s May 19, 2012 endorsement of same-sex marriage. Today’s installment of “The Great Unknown,” which marks my sixth annual column on the queer history of Japanese Americans, is devoted to commemorating the Japanese American Citizens League’s (JACL) historic marriage debate. As most of us are […]

A review of ‘Prisoners and Patriots’

“Prisoners and Patriots: The Untold Story of Japanese Internment in Santa Fe,” according to the film’s writer/director/producer Neil H. Simon, is the first film to tell the story of the World War II-era internment camp run by the Department of Justice in Santa Fe, N.M. The recent film (which was shown at Day of Remembrance […]

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