I will remember for a long time to come the beautiful memorial service, reception, and solidarity of the diverse community who gathered Friday at the Sacramento Buddhist Temple to honor the memory of Wayne Maeda. He leaves a huge legacy.
You can learn more about Wayne’s commitment to teaching for tolerance by reading his book Changing Dreams and Treasured Memories: A Story of Japanese Americans in the Sacramento Region. Sac State’s Asian American and Ethnic Studies program and department is a result of Wayne’s vision and passion for combating hate crimes and other social injustices.
I called on Wayne many times in the last eight years to meet with teachers in my district to provide the historical context needed to help build our Time of Remembrance Oral Histories Project. He never once said no to my continual guest speaker requests.
Two years ago, I traveled with a group of Sacramento teachers and students to the legendary World War II internment camp Manzanar. I will never forget this experience. The trip was paid for through a California Civil Liberties Public Education Grant – written by Wayne. Wayne also invited my friend and talented videographer Doug Niva to accompany us. The result was the I’m American Too documentary. I know that all who have watched the documentary and who knew Wayne, myself included, will consider the documentary a tribute to Wayne’s dedication to “never letting the mistakes of American history be repeated.”
A local TV station kicked off the Veterans Day weekend with a showing of Tora! Tora! Tora! With an all-star cast, I certainly do not question why this 1970′s portrayal of the bombing of Pearl Harbor deserves recognition as an American classic. A number of lines from the movie, however, reminded me of the importance of providing students with access to a broad collection of primary sources for learning about World War II.
It is often through snippets of first-hand accounts of a historical event, that students begin to question information – such as the accounts provided by textbooks. As I listened to one of the American officers in Tora! Tora! Tora! explain that the real danger was the hundreds of Japanese living in Hawaii, I thought about a government propaganda clip, Japanese Relocation, that explained (justified) the need to remove thousands of U.S. citizens of Japanese heritage from the West Coast. This government clip provides insight into the political climate of the war years.
But history is all about who is telling the story. In working on the Time of Remembrance Oral Histories Project, a project I’ve been involved in for that last six years, I find that with each new interview, my understanding of the internment experience deepens, as does my appreciation for war time complexities.
I recently added ten new interviews to the Time of Remembrance collection. Each story is a reminder of what can happen if we allow the loss of rights to any group of people to go unchallenged. Each story is also a reminder that history happens one story at a time.
The additions to the Interview Archives include first-hand accounts from:
Over the next few weeks, I’ll also be uploading a set of powerful lessons created by 12 teachers in my district. This incredibly talented panel is making available to you grade-level (grades 5-12), standards-aligned lessons that weave in the TOR interview segments. You are free to download, share, and tweak these lessons in anyway that works best for you and your students.
It is my hope that the primary sources provided through the Time of Remembrance site will engage students in “doing history” as opposed to just “studying history.” Whatever the historical event, all students should have opportunities to construct knowledge and exam differing points of view, and, in the process, gain a sense of what it was like to live through events from the past. The Common Core State Standards support the integration of primary sources into the curriculum because reading through first-hand accounts of any event invites the development of critical thinking and helps students to “distinguish among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment in a text.”
As for Tora! Tora! Tora!, it just seems that 70 years later, a movie trailer might be appropriate – one that makes clear that actually not a single Japanese-American citizen was ever found guilty of espionage or traitorous activities.
Wishing everyone a restful, reflective Veterans Day:-)
I teach in the Elk Grove School District, a large K-12 district south of Sacramento, California. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the history of this once rural community forever changed. As the nation entered World War II, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the removal and “relocation” of thousands of Japanese-Americans from the West Coast. Virtually overnight U.S. citizens of Japanese heritage disappeared from the farming communities of the Sacramento valley.
Today is September 17, the official date designated by legislation passed in 2005 to celebrate U.S. Constitution Day. The Japanese internment story is a powerful example of why it is so important for us (especially educators) to understand – and to be willing to fight for – the Constitutional Rights guaranteed to every citizen.
Last week I uploaded to my district’s Time of Remembrance website 10 new interviews with Japanese-Americans from the Sacramento area. Each story is a reminder of what can happen if we allow the loss of rights to any group of people to go unchallenged.
The new additions to the Time of Remembrance Interview Archives include first-hand accounts of the war years from:
Constitution Day 2011 – a time to reflect on what it means to be an informed citizen and what’s worth fighting for.
My feet have still not quite hit the ground since my Pilgrimage to Manzanar trip and my bike ‘n barge trip across Holland with Hannie Voyles. But already I know that two of my summer projects will be to create multimedia teacher guides for two books I know middle – high school language arts/English/history teachers will want to add to their teaching toolkits:
Kiyo’s Story – One of my favorite take-aways from the Manzanar trip was an autographed copy of Kiyo Sato’s memoir of growing up in California – before, during, and after WWII.
“It is a magnificent memoir, fully worthy of being compared to Farewell to Manzanar. I cannot praise its pointillist realism, its Zen-like austerity, highly enough. Exquisite.”—Kevin Starr, author of California: A History
I have to take issue with Kevin Starr’s review. Kiyo’s Story provides something missing from Farewell to Manzanar: a window into the Issei (first generation of Japanese immigrants) experience in California and also makes visible the power of one’s culture to help overcome extreme challenges and attacks on human dignity. Kiyo also includes samples of upstanders (people who choose to take positive action in the face of injustice in society or in situations where individuals need assistance), such as Edward Kelly Elementary School teacher Miss Cox.
I had the good fortune to interview Kiyo five years ago as part of my Time of Remembrance Oral Histories Project. Kiyo’s interview will make a wonderful accompanying piece to her book – and upcoming multimedia teachers guide. Since the release of Kiyo’s Story, there are also a number of online inteviews with her, such as the 2009 radio interview with KQED’s Dave Iverson and News & Review piece by Becky Grunewald, that I will be weaving into the multimedia teachers guide.
Storming the Tulips – I first met Hannie two years ago, when my friend Pam Bodnar, a middle school counselor in Chico, shared with me a remarkable presentation Hannie did with Pam’s 8th grade students on how she survived the Nazi occupation of Holland. Hannie was a schoolmate of Anne Frank’s, a few years younger than Anne but also a student for a while at the same Montessori School. Whereas Anne’s story is one of hiding in the Annex, Hannie’s is from a street view. Hannie and her sister were the eyes and ears for their Jewish mother, who, like Anne, had to remain hidden in their apartment, which was opposite Nazi headquarters.
Hannie’s compelling story is one of 20 first-hand accounts of survival and resilience included in Storming the Tulips:
Storming the Tulips is an intimate encounter with history, as told by twenty former students of the 1st Montessori School in Amsterdam. They were children-contemporaries of Anne Frank -and this book is a companion to The Diary of Anne Frank. While Anne’s story describes her sequestered life in the Annex, Storming the Tulips reveals what children on the outside endured-in the streets, in hiding, and in the concentration camps. Their friends disappeared. Their parents sent them away. They were herded on trains and sent to death camps. They joined the Nazi youth. They hid Jews. They lost their families. They picked the pockets of the dead. They escaped. They dodged bullets. They lived in terror. They starved. They froze. They ate tulip bulbs. They witnessed a massacre. They collected shrapnel. And finally, they welcomed the Liberation. Some lost their families, most lost their homes, but they all lost their innocence as they fought to survive in a world gone mad-the only world that they knew.”
Last month I traveled to Chico, along with Doug Niva, the very talented videographer who has played such a key role in the Time of Remembrance project, to do an interview with Hannie. We will soon have clips from the interview online, both as stand-alone questions in 11th grade US History teacher Erin Goldman’s Beyond Anne Frank lesson, and as part of the soon-to-be-developed multimedia literature guide for Storming the Tulips.
So it may be a while yet before my feet finally touch the ground.
I’m packing my overnight bag for a weekend excursion to the Owens Valley, to visit Manzanar, a former WWII internment camp for citizens of Japanese heritage. I’ll be traveling with California State University, Sacramento, professor Wayne Mayeda, a group of former internees, students from CSUS, and a team of teachers from my district.
Our journey commemorates an injustice that began during the spring of 1942, in an act that denied thousands of citizens of their constitutional rights when the U.S. government rounded up the entire West Coast Japanese American community and “relocated” them to mass incarceration camps.
The very talented videographer Doug Niva will be joining me for the trip. Our goal is to interview those who experienced – or witnessed – first hand the internment experience at Manzanar. We will be adding those primary accounts and reflections to our growing Time of Remembrance website.
So if you teach about Japanese internment and have something in particular you’d like me to research during our whirlwind weekend, please let me know.
This 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.
“While teachers are concerned about this lack of participation in classroom talk, they are also often relatively accepting of these quiet students who don’t pose a discipline problem, who turn in homework on time, and in general, get passing grades.“
I am pulling a few quotes from Carol Tateishi‘s article Taking a Chance with Words, which she has published with Rethinking Schools. Carol shares insights from her own background of growing up Asian (Japanese-American) in a post World War II era as she observes through recent visits to San Francisco Bay Area high school classrooms “the lack of participation by students of Asian descent in the oral language activities of the class.”
In interviewing Asian-American students, she found four shared qualities:
Yet as teachers, we commonly share a very different set of beliefs:
Carol points out that there is more at stake than “better learning of the curriculum.” Her concern is how the lack of strong verbal skills impacts future career paths for many Asian-Americans. “It mattered in the 1940s and matters again today if Asian-Americans have the words and voice to speak up for themselves and their communities. It matters if we have lawyers, writers, activists, educators, business leaders, elected officials, and ordinary citizens who understand the power of language and use it”
I will be passing this article on to colleagues whose class rosters include Asian-Americans. As Carol Tateishi points out: it’s easy to overlook the needs of students who seemingly pose no problems.
“History happens one person at a time.” Nikos Theodosakis
Several major projects have taken over my life during the last six weeks (which accounts for my lapse in posting and responding). At the top of my list is the Time of Remembrance oral histories project and website, a resource that includes the living voices of eighteen Japanese-American citizens who experienced discrimination, exclusion, and forced removal from the west coast during WWII.
Three years ago, Marielle Tsukamoto, an Elk Grove educator who has become a friend, mentor, and constant source of inspiration, and I had a conversation about the need to document and preserve the stories of local residents who, following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, lost all rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Our aim was to produce broadcast-quality interviews that would be available online. We wanted teachers to review the interviews, select clips that aligned to their grade-level or subject area standards and curriculum, and integrate the clips into sample lessons. We applied for a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant in order to cover the cost of a professional videographer (Sacramento Eudcational Cable Consortium‘s own Doug Niva), university advisors, historians, and archivists (CSUS’s Wayne Mayeda, Lori Hammond, Janie Lowe, and Georgiana White), and stipends for our teacher team. We did not get the grant…and that turned out to be a good thing.
Thanks to much in-kind time from SECC and the CSUS team, and the support of EGUSD Tech Services, and some funding from our Teaching American History Grant, we were able to do exactly what I proposed in the above, minus any of the bureaucratic reporting requirements that are part of an NEH package.
If you have been following the Ken Burns World War II series, you already know that Sacramento was one of the featured cities. Prior to the opening week of the series, Ken Burns came to the Sacramento Museum for History, Women and the Arts for a promotion. Marielle gave him a tour of the Museum’s Time of Remembrance exhibit and told him that the Elk Grove School District would soon have an online collection of interviews with the internees. He asked Marielle to contact him when we went live with the Interview Archives section of the website, which she will do sometime this week when it becomes the feature story for our district website. I think he will be impressed. I am. This project is a perfect example of what can be accomplished with a little bandwidth and a lot of collaboration.
Unlike the War series, the Time of Remembrance Interview Archive clips are available for teachers 24/7 – no cost and no need to ask permission to download and use for classroom purposes:-) . And…there is more to come…We’ve conducted eight more interviews and next month plan to do a walking tour of the remnants of Marysville’s Japantown. Two of our interviewees will serve as our guides as they reconstruct their memories of this agricultural community in the pre-WWII years.
Note: To listen to the interview clips that go with the above photographs, visit Reiko Nagumo’s interview.