LOS ANGELES — On July 23, the Manzanar Committee announced its support of the Historic Wintersburg Preservation Task Force’s efforts to preserve, protect and interpret the history of Historic Wintersburg in Huntington Beach, California.
Historic Wintersburg’s history dates back to the late 1800’s, as an agricultural community that was once known as the “celery capital” of the United States. In its earliest days, Issei (first generation Japanese Americans—immigrants from Japan who were denied citizenship until 1952 due to racist laws), worked the fields and eventually, families established roots, and built a Nihonmachi (Japantown) that thrived.
World War II uprooted the entire community—they were among the over 110,000 Japanese Americans on the West Coast who were unjustly incarcerated in American concentration camps. But Wintersburg is unique in that, unlike most areas where Japanese Americans were forcibly removed from, Wintersburg’s Japanese Americans still had homes to return to where they could rebuild their lives during the resettlement period.
Today, the historic Wintersburg Presbyterian Church, the Wintersburg Village farm, and the Furuta House, still stand.
“We welcome the efforts of the Historic Wintersburg Preservation Task Force to tell the story of the Issei immigrant farmers,” said Manzanar Committee Co-Chair Kerry Cababa. “In 1913, the racist Alien Land Law forbid sale of land to ‘aliens ineligible to citizenship.’ The Historic Wintersburg property is an important historic resource because there is evidence indicating that it may be the sole remaining land in Huntington Beach acquired by a Japanese family prior to the 1913 Alien Land Law.”
“‘Preservation’ does not mean just the saving of buildings,” added Cababa. “More important is preserving what they represent. These buildings represent the Issei farmer trying to buy land before the 1913 Alien Land Law went into effect. They represent the Issei farmer and his family working in the fields in search of the American Dream. The buildings represent where the Furuta family returned to after their unjust incarceration in Poston, Arizona during World War II.”
Cababa noted the injustice and the lost educational opportunities if these important cultural and historic treasures were carelessly bulldozed away simply for economic motivations.
“As a designated historic site, Historic Wintersburg can tell the story of the Japanese American people from as far back as the late 1800’s,” Cababa emphasized. “We urge the City of Huntington Beach Planning Commission to seize this rare and unparalleled opportunity to educate future generations about the contributions of these immigrants to the agricultural success of Orange County and indeed, of Southern California. Only by knowing our history can we effectively navigate the future.”
LEAD PHOTO: The congregation of the Wintersburg Presbyterian Church, March 8, 1910. Photo courtesy Wintersburg Presbyterian Church.
The Manzanar Committee is dedicated to educating and raising public awareness about the incarceration and violation of civil rights of persons of Japanese ancestry during World War II and to the continuing struggle of all peoples when Constitutional rights are in danger. A non-profit organization that has sponsored the annual Manzanar Pilgrimage since 1969, along with other educational programs, the Manzanar Committee has also played a key role in the establishment and continued development of the Manzanar National Historic Site. You can also follow the Manzanar Commitee on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube.
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