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Researching and Teaching Japanese American Internment in Arkansas and Louisiana

Panel Discussion

Abstract

The mass incarceration of Japanese Americans during the Second World War was widely known and controversial even when it took place. It remains one of most shameful moments in U.S. history, and a defining moment in Asian American history. And yet, even historians know little about the incarceration of Japanese American and Japanese civilians in the American South. Camp Rohwer and Camp Jerome were two of the largest War Relocation Centers in the country, where thousands of U.S. citizens and permanent residents were detained for most of the war. Camp Livingston near Alexandria, Louisiana, was the site of an U.S. Army camp where more than one thousand Japanese Americans and Japanese civilians deported from Latin America were incarcerated. The Algiers Immigration Station in New Orleans was the "Ellis Island" of the South, the primary port of entry for immigrants from the Caribbean and much of Latin America, including deported Japanese civilians. This roundtable discussion will cover the many challenges of studying, teaching, curating exhibits, and preserving historic sites for a well-known topic in an understudied place. The discussion will feature five of the leading researchers and public historians on Japanese American incarceration in Arkansas and Louisiana. Hayley Johnson and Sarah Simms of LSU are currently writing a book on the internment camp at Fort Livingston. Greg Robinson of Université du Québec à Montréal has written extensively on Japanese American incarceration and the history of the Japanese in Louisiana. Adam Long is the executive director of Heritage Sites for Arkansas State University, the agency that oversees the Rohwer Japanese American Relocation Center heritage site in Arkansas. Stephanie Hinnershitz of the National WWII Museum recently published a book describing coerced and unpaid Japanese American labor inside and outside the internment camps.


Asian American South 20th Century

Session Participants

Stephanie Hinnershitz, Air Command and Staff College

Chair; Panelist

Stephanie Hinnershitz is Senior Historian at the Institute for the Study of War and Democracy at the National WWII Museum.

Mr. Winston Ho, The Historic New Orleans Collection

Proposal Submitter Only

Hayley Johnson, Louisiana State University

Panelist

Hayley Johnson is the head of Open Scholarship and Government Publications at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Her research interests include collaborative partnerships in academia, information literacy, civic engagement, and social justice. She has previously published on the use of social media during the Standing Rock protests and has received grant funding to pursue research into the linked histories of Japanese American and American Indian military service during World War II. With her research partner, she has been unearthing the civilian internment of Japanese men during World War II in Louisiana culminating in a forthcoming book titled Beneath Heavy Pines In World War II Louisiana: The Japanese American Internment Experience at Camp Livingston with Lexington Books. Outside of her own research, Hayley continues to promote the use of government information as an essential tool in the research process.

Dr. Adam Long, Arkansas State University

Panelist

Dr. Adam Long is the executive director of Arkansas State University’s Heritage Sites. This program preserves four historic sites of national significance in the Arkansas Delta region, including the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum (Piggott), the Southern Tenant Farmers Museum (Tyronza), the Lakeport Plantation (Lake Village), and the Historic Dyess Colony: Johnny Cash Boyhood Home (Dyess). Dr. Long is also the administrator of Crowley’s Ridge Parkway and a member of the Arkansas Delta Byways regional tourism association board.

Dr. Long holds a Bachelor of Arts from Lyon College, a Masters from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, and a Doctorate from the University of Kansas. His specialty is American literature, particularly the writing of the American modernists, including Faulkner and Hemingway.

Dr. Greg Robinson, Université du Québec À Montréal

Panelist

Sarah Simms, Louisiana State University Libraries

Panelist

Sarah Simms is the Undergraduate & Student Success Librarian at LSU. She and her research partner, Hayley Johnson, have been working to uncover the history of Japanese alien internment at Camp Livingston in central Louisiana during World War II. With Johnson, she has written articles, spoken at TEDxLSU, and written a manuscript on the subject. This history has led them both to be advocates for social justice - especially in libraries, the classroom, and advocating for the inclusion of historically excluded voices in the historical conversation. When not researching this history, Simms teaches information literacy at Louisiana State University and collaborates with faculty to embed the concepts of understanding information and its use in various aspects of the curriculum across campus.