Concentration Camps on the Home Front: Japanese Americans in the House of Jim Crow

Concentration Camps on the Home Front: Japanese Americans in the House of Jim Crow

Concentration Camps on the Home Front: Japanese Americans in the House of Jim Crow

Concentration Camps on the Home Front: Japanese Americans in the House of Jim Crow

Synopsis

Without trial and without due process, the United States government locked up nearly all of those citizens and longtime residents who were of Japanese descent during World War II. Ten concentration camps were set up across the country to confine over 120,000 inmates. Almost 20,000 of them were shipped to the only two camps in the segregated South- Jerome and Rohwer in Arkansas- locations that put them right in the heart of a much older, long-festering system of racist oppression. The first history of these Arkansas camps, Concentration Camps on the Home Front is an eye-opening account of the inmates' experiences and a searing examination of American imperialism and racist hysteria.
While the basic facts of Japanese-American incarceration are well known, John Howard's extensive research gives voice to those whose stories have been forgotten or ignored. He highlights the roles of women, first-generation immigrants, and those who forcefully resisted their incarceration by speaking out against dangerous working conditions and white racism. In addition to this overlooked history of dissent, Howard also exposes the government's aggressive campaign to Americanize the inmates and even convert them to Christianity. After the war ended, this movement culminated in the dispersal of the prisoners across the nation in a calculated effort to break up ethnic enclaves.
Howard's re-creation of life in the camps is powerful, provocative, and disturbing. Concentration Camps on the Home Front rewrites a notorious chapter in American history- a shameful story that nonetheless speaks to the strength of human resilience in the face of even the most grievous injustices.

Excerpt

Neither a military hero nor sports figure, neither an elected official nor popular entertainer, Earl Finch cultivated a unique celebrity in mid-twentiethcentury America. Raised poor in rural Mississippi, Finch was known only to his family and a small circle of peers as of 1943. By 1945 he would meet with President Truman; he would be spotlighted in press accounts and magazine features; and he would go on to be warmly remembered in innumerable memoirs of the war years. His friends and acquaintances would span the globe. Neither a Carnegie nor a Rockefeller, Earl Finch was a philanthropist of limited means, a do-gooder with what seemed a single cause.

Prone to immoderate gift-giving, Finch embodied the most prominent symbols of openhandedness. He was Santa Claus, turning up at Christmastime and doling out presents to youngsters. He was the Easter bunny, securing thousands of decorated eggs for hunts in the spring. He was the Christian servant, a disciplined Southern Baptist who followed Jesus' parable on eternal life: he fed the hungry; he visited the sick; he went to those in prison; he welcomed the strangers. The strangers to the Deep South during World War II, those most in need, as Earl Finch saw it, were Americans of Japanese descent. Finch's altruism was focused on the victims of U.S. concentration camps, the 120,000 Japanese American citizens and longtime residents forced from their homes on the West Coast and indiscriminately incarcerated in the interior, particularly those locked up in the two camps in nearby Arkansas. And he was . . .

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