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The Power of One – A Time of Remembrance

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fletcherThis morning’s Sacramento Bee has a feature story on Bob Fletcher. Who is Bob Fletcher? The Bee’s headline sums it up: “When Florin growers were interned in WWII, he stepped in.”

Too often for our students, history happens in a textbook, with the correct answers at the end of the chapter. Stories like Bob Fletcher’s show that history doesn’t just happen in a vacuum.  History happens in our communities.  History happens one story at a time.

The forced removal of thousands of Japanese-Americans from the West Coast following the bombing of Pearl Harbor is an example of when justice failed…and history happened in a local community.

Bob Fletcher’s courage in steeping in to help the Tsukamoto family at a time when our government chose to deny to entire group of people their Constitutional rights provides an important piece of the puzzle when trying to understand the conditions that are common to the exclusion and forced removal of any group of people.

It has been my good fortune to work with Marielle Tsukamoto on our on-going Time of Remembrance Oral Histories Project – a race against time to preserve the living voices of those who witnessed first-hand acts of intolerance, but  who also remember the impact one “upstander” can have on a community and on history.

What’s missing from the article is that Marielle and other internees work tirelessly to share their stories of the war years, of intolerance, of resiliency, and of the power of one with school children throughout the greater Sacramento region through their annual Time of Remembrance exhibit at the California Museum of History, Women and the Arts and with students across the nation through our growing bank of Time of Remembrance online interviews.

Bob Fletcher’s story is about one person quietly but courageously making a difference.  It’s also a story the Bee probably would not have told during the war years.  A visit to CSUS’s City of Sacramento online archives brings up the following reference:

Not Black and White: The Sacramento Bee’s coverage of the Japanese Community from Pearl Harbor to Executive Order 9066 (2002)
CSH Call Number: ETHN WHI
Thaddeus David White researched Sacramento Bee articles to determine whether the newspaper actively promoted an anti-Japanese campaign after Pearl Harbor. The articles advocated tolerance and restraint, but supported mass evacuations.”

All the more reason why I was happy to start my day with today with Bob Fletcher’s story:-).

I bet you have students who would like to join the conversation at http://www.sacbee.com/topstories/story/2534367.html.

2 Comments

  1. I love this post, Gail. There are so many nuances – one person making a difference. The series by a newspaper that had been unable to tell this story at the time.

    I admire your work on the Time of Remembrance Oral Histories project, as well.

    Thank you for this. I’m going to try to share it as widely as possible.

  2. Thanks, Paul. We have 12 more very powerful interviews I’m hoping to get onto the website soon. For most of the internees there was no “Bob Fletcher,” no one willing to take a stand. Most lost their farms and the Japantown of Sacramento was quietly and over night erased.

    And I’m pretty sure there were few, if any, “Bob Fletchers” where you are currently living, only a few miles from the original home of the Oakland Tribune, which was owned by Senator Knowland – author of Executive Order 9066.

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