Featured Photo: A funeral is held on December 21, 1942 for James Ito and Jim Kanagawa, both shot by soldiers as they gathered in a crowd on December 6, 1942 at Manzanar (Nagatomi Family Collection/National Park Service).
This past Saturday, April 24, was our virtual 52nd Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage. As has been our tradition for decades, we supplement the educational work of our annual pilgrimage program with a written booklet. In the hours after our event, Patricia Biggs, who works as a park ranger at Manzanar National Historic Site, posted a disparaging comment on our official Facebook page about an oral history printed on page 39 of our online published booklet.
After being criticized by Carrie Morita, Patricia removed her post and apologized.
The post accuses the children of Dr. James Goto, the surgeon, coroner, and chief medical officer in Manzanar, of spreading “falsehoods” about his role in the Manzanar revolt. Specifically, that he and his family were transferred to Topaz because he refused to alter the autopsy reports on those killed by the Military police.
The events of December 5-6, 1942 shaped the future of more than just the families of James Kanagawa and Jimmy Ito, the two young men killed by the Military Police. These traumatic events impacted WRA policy, fueled the creation of the insidious 1943 Loyalty Questionnaire, and altered the lives of tens of thousands of people, including our families.
The Facebook post denigrates and dismisses a family’s oral history, thereby reinforcing feelings of shame and fear that have been so prevalent in our community. It undercuts our ability to collect the stories of camp that play a crucial role in understanding the forced removal.
Patricia Biggs’ post stated the Manzanar Committee published “falsehoods.” It calls into question our approach to interpretation and education. We believe our printable Pilgrimage booklet is the best rebuttal to this criticism of our work.
The Manzanar Committee believes the most definitive analysis of this event was done by Dr. Arthur A. Hansen, emeritus professor of history, founding director of the Japanese American Project of the Oral History Program and the Center for Oral and Public History, and founding faculty member of the Asian American Studies Program at California State University, Fullerton. He conducted extensive oral history interviews with those involved, most notably, Harry Ueno and Togo Tanaka. We refer you to his latest book Barbed Voices to read more about what he calls the “Manzanar Revolt.”
Clearly. more work needs to be done, and we look forward to collaborating with others, including the National Park Service, in this endeavor.
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. For more information, check out our web site at https://manzanarcommittee.org, call us at (323) 662-5102, and e-mail us at email@example.com. You can also follow the Manzanar Committee on Facebook, on Twitter at @manzanarcomm, on Instagram at @manzanarcommittee, on Pinterest and on YouTube.
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The work is never “done”.
On the evening of April 24, 2021, a Manzanar National Historic Site employee posted a comment on the Manzanar Committee’s Facebook page from their personal Facebook account that is not representative of the National Park Service. The employee later apologized and deleted the comment. While this comment was personal, we wish to apologize on behalf of the National Park Service. We understand that the stories of the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II can be complex, controversial, and traumatic. We fully respect and honor the experiences and stories of survivors and their descendants.
Manzanar National Historic Site would not exist if it were not for the grass-roots efforts of the Manzanar Committee over the past four decades. We look forward to continuing to learn, grow, and collaborate with the Manzanar Committee. The National Park Service’s interpretive approach at Manzanar is guided by the theme “One Camp, Ten Thousand Lives; One Camp, Ten Thousand Stories.” We will continue to preserve and share these stories.