The World War II Japanese American Internment Museum in McGehee will conduct a Professional Development Workshop on Monday, June 30, 2014. The event will start at 9:00 a.m. In cooperation with McGehee Schools, participants will travel to the Rohwer Japanese American Relocation Center site for a more indepth understanding of the camp. For information, contact Susan Gallion, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Museum was awarded the Cultural Heritage Award by Arkansas Delta Byways — an association of 15 Eastern Arkansas Counties. Congratulations! More than 2,100 visitors have registered as museum guests since last April. Jeff Owyoung & Mayor Jack May accepted the award. A group of about a dozen people from McGehee were there!
The Association for Gravestone Studies will present the Oakley Certificate of Merit Award to University of Arkansas at Little Rock professor of history Dr. Johanna Miller Lewis, along with three other Arkansans on Thursday.
Lewis and the others will be honored at 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5, at the Reception Room of the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History at 503 E. Ninth St. in Little Rock.
The award is for work that fosters appreciation of the cultural significance of gravestones and burying grounds through study and preservation. The event is free and open to the public.
Lewis, who also serves as associate dean of the UALR Graduate School, began a project to stabilize and restore Rohwer cemetery markers at the former Japanese Internment Camp in Desha County upon receipt of a 2011 National Park Service grant.
She started working on the cemetery with architect John Greer in 2003 with another Park Service grant for $35,000.
UA-Fayetteville History Professor Kimball Erdman will also be recognized. Erdman worked with Lewis at the Rohwer Relocation Center Cemetery.
Erdman’s landscape architecture class prepared a Historic American Landscape Survey, including measured drawings, photography, and a written history of Rohwer.
Carla Hines Coleman and Tamela Tenpenny-Lewis, co-founders of Preservation of African American Cemeteries Inc., are the other two recipients. They worked with schools and other groups to identify, document, and conserve African-American cemeteries in the state.
Lewis and Erdman collaborated with Arkansas State University Heritage Sites program to use maps and research in their interpretation for site visitors and with the UALR’s Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies to prepare a laser 3-D scan of the site.
“This has very much been a team effort at UALR with Andrijana Vukovich and Dave Millay in Facilities Management and John Greer leading the way,” Lewis noted.
AGS is a non-profit organization based in Greenfield, Mass, with members from many countries who share interests in art, history, art history, genealogy, archaeology, anthropology, conservation, and material culture.
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JONESBORO – Rohwer Japanese American Relocation Center tells a heart-wrenching story about the plight of U.S. citizens who were forced to relocate to the Arkansas Delta during World War II.
A new website of the Arkansas State University Heritage Sites program makes the center and its educational mission even more accessible for those seeking to know more about its significance in American history.
The A-State Center for Digital Initiatives developed the website in collaboration with Dr. Ruth Hawkins, director of Heritage Sites, and her colleagues.
“Ruth asked us to work with the Heritage Sites team to create an online presence that gives visitors a better sense of what the relocation center was like,” explained Dr. Alyson Gill, director of CDI and associate professor of art history at A-State.
The website is a complement to interpretive exhibits installed by A-State’s Heritage Sites program and dedicated last spring. Audio portions of the exhibits were narrated by George Takei, one of the center’s most famous former war-time residents. Takei is best known to his millions of fans for portraying Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu on the original “Star Trek” television series and “Star Trek” motion pictures.
“I remember going to school behind barbed wire fences,” Takei recalls in one of the recordings. “We began every morning with the Pledge of Allegiance. I could see the barbed wire fence and armed guards in towers from the school windows as I recited ‘with liberty and justice for all.’ ”
Takei also was present at a dedication ceremony for the exhibits, held in conjunction with the opening of the new World War II Japanese-American Internment Museum at McGehee. Some of his dedicatory remarks are included on the web site, along with portions of his audio recordings and other elements from the exhibits.
“Rohwer is not an easy place to get to for many people,” Hawkins said. “ We wanted to share this chapter in our nation’s history with a much broader audience by making some of the same information available via a robust web site.”
Gill said the CDI team that developed the website, http://rohwer.astate.edu, included an architectural illustration of part of the center, images from archives, as well as historical information. They have worked closely with Hawkins and other researchers and historical authorities to model the Arkansas Heritage Sites. The ongoing work by Heritage Sites and the Center for Digital Initiatives is supportive of the university’s mission to educate leaders, enhance intellectual growth and enrich lives.
“It is a privilege for us to work with the Heritage Sites,” Gill added. “We will continue to add to the website in the coming months.”
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MCGEHEE, ARK. — Actor George Takei spoke quietly and thoughtfully as the Japanese American internment museum and the exhibit “Against Their Will: The Japanese American Experience in World War II Arkansas” were commemorated through two ceremonies in Desha County on April 16.
The museum is located at the McGehee’s historic train depot at 100 S. Railroad St. and will serve as the Jerome-Rohwer Interpretive and Visitor Center. The dedication was sponsored by the McGehee Industrial Development Foundation, and the unveiling of outdoor exhibits developed through Arkansas State University at the Rohwer Relocation Center followed.
Both projects were initiated through grants from the Japanese American Confinement Sites Program at the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior.
“This is a very important time for America and this community,” said Takei, who portrayed Hikaru Sulu on the original “Star Trek” TV series and motion pictures. “This museum was built as a place where people could connect with each other. Today, it transports us in time and space to another time for America. It has resonances that are profoundly important.”
In 1942, following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the federal government forced Japanese American citizens to leave the West Coast and imprisoned them for the duration of the war at 10 “relocation centers,” mostly in western states, with two in Arkansas — at Rohwer, just north of McGehee, and at Jerome, just south of McGehee. These were the temporary homes for more than 17,000 incarcerated Japanese Americans. Takei was interned as a young boy with his family at Rohwer.
“I was too innocent to understand what that experience meant,” continued Takei. “To my parents, it was intimidating and infuriating. I could see the barbed-wire fence outside my tarpaper-barracked schoolhouse window, as I would say, ‘with liberty and justice for all.’ My father said, ‘Our democracy is a people’s democracy and can be as good as people are or as fallible as people are.’”
The outdoor interpretive exhibits at the Rohwer site include a series of kiosks and wayside panels, with audio components narrated by Takei. Researched by students in the Heritage Studies Ph.D. Program at Arkansas State University and designed for the university by the 106 Group of Minneapolis/St. Paul, the exhibits provide a glimpse into the lives of Japanese Americans once interned there. The exhibits will be maintained by Desha County.
A National Historic Landmark, the Rohwer site today includes only the Japanese American cemetery and the remains of the camp’s hospital smokestack. Preservation work at the cemetery is expected to begin later this spring under the leadership of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock.
Matching grant funds for the Rohwer exhibits were provided by Arkansas State University, with support from the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, Desha County and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Matching funds and support for the McGehee museum grant were provided by the McGehee Industrial Foundation, the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, the Arkansas Department of Rural Services, Clearwater Paper Corp. and the Joseph F. Wallace Trust.
The featured exhibit, created through the University of Arkansas-Little Rock Public History Program, is on loan from the Delta Cultural Center in Helena.
(This article originally appeared in the Huffington Post.)
Last week, just before the attacks in Boston, I took a pilgrimage. I traveled to Arkansas to dedicate the Japanese American Internment Museum in McGehee. The town lies between two places of great sadness: Jerome internment camp to the southwest, and Rohwer camp to the northeast. Over seventy years ago, my family and I were forced from our home in Los Angeles at gunpoint by U.S. soldiers and sent to Rohwer, all because we happened to look like the people who bombed Pearl Harbor. I was just five years old, and would spend much of my childhood behind barbed wire in that camp and, later, another in California called Tule Lake. One hundred twenty thousand other Japanese Americans from the West Coast suffered a similar fate.
I was the keynote speaker at the dedication ceremony of the museum. A number of internees attended with their families, as well as about 500 people, primarily from Arkansas, along with historians from throughout the United States. After the dedication ceremony, we moved on to the actual Rohwer camp site about 20 minutes away.
Almost nothing remains where the camp once stood. We went to dedicate a historic marker, along with half a dozen audio kiosks. It was admittedly poignant to hear my own voice narrating from those kiosks about the importance of each specific site, marking ground where we had been held against our will, without charge or trial, so long ago.
One of the audio kiosks is placed just about at the site of the crude barrack that housed my family and me — block 6, barrack 2, unit F. We were little more than numbers to our jailers, each of us given a tag to wear to camp like a piece of luggage. My tag was 12832-C.
I have memories of the nearby drainage ditch where I used to catch pollywogs that sprouted legs and eventually and magically turned into frogs. I remember the barbed wire fence nearby, beyond which lay pools of water with trees reaching out from them. We were in the swamps, you see: fetid, hot, mosquito-laden. We were isolated, far enough away from anywhere anyone would want to live.
Today, I recognize nothing. The swamp has been drained, the trees have all been chopped down. It is now just mile after mile of cotton fields. Everything I remember is gone.
The most moving of the sites is the cemetery. As a child, I never went there, yet that is the only thing that still stands from Rohwer Camp, except for a lone smokestack where the infirmary once operated. The memorial marker is a tall, crumbling concrete obelisk, in tribute to the young men who went from their barbed wire confinement to fight for America, perishing on bloody European battlefields. That day, I stood solemnly with surviving veterans who had served in the segregated all-Japanese American 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the most decorated unit in all the war.
We ended the ceremony with a release of butterflies. They symbolized beauty confined, first in cocoons, then in a box, but now released, free to go and be wherever they chose.
As I write this, once again the national dialogue turns to defining our enemies, the impulse to smear whole communities or people with the actions of others still too familiar and raw. Places like the museum and Rohwer camp exist to remind us of the dangers and fallibility of our democracy, which is only as strong as the adherence to our constitutional principles renders it. People like myself and those veterans lived through that failure, and we understand how quickly cherished liberties and freedom may slip away or disappear utterly.
Places like Rohwer matter, more than seventy years later. And so, we remember.
$300,378 National Parks Service Japanese American Confinement Sites grant awarded to University of Arkansas, Fayetteville for “Rohwer Reconstructed: Interpreting Place through Experience”
Rohwer Reconstructed: Interpreting Place through Experience
Rohwer Relocation Center, Desha County, AR
The University of Arkansas will create an online 3D visualization of Rohwer Relocation Center during World War II. Documents, oral histories, photographs and material objects currently housed in multiple collections throughout Arkansas will be digitized and integrated into the interactive virtual environment, allowing online visitors to experience a sense of Rohwer during its occupation.
Award publication posted here.
On February 4th, 2013, the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle hosted the 11th Annual Craig Noel Awards last night to a crowd of nearly 500 of San Diego’s most dedicated theatre lovers, producers and participants. Among those were some of the larger theatre companies in the city including The Old Globe, Moxie and La Jolla Playhouse.
The Old Globe took home 10 awards from the shows in its season, the most by any theatre company. The new musical Allegiance, which had its World Premiere at the Old Globe in September of 2012, took home the top award, for Outstanding New Musical, along with two other awards, for Outstanding Featured Performance Male, and Outstanding Orchestrations.
Other notable wins for the Globe including Outstanding Resident Musical for The Scottsboro Boys, and Outstanding Resident Musical for The Recommendation.
Allegiance also won Outstanding Featured Performer in a Musical for a Male for Michael K Lee’s heart-wrenching portrayal of a conflicted Japanese American, Frankie Suzuki. Allegiance won its third award, Outstanding Orchestrations for the work of Lynne Shankel. This third award tied Allegiance for the second-most awards of any single show, and for the highest number of awards for any new musical in the season.
“All of us at The Old Globe are truly honored by this recognition from the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle,” Artistic Director Barry Edelstein said in a statement Monday night. “I am so proud to join a great institution that brings so much exciting work to San Diego audiences, and I am genuinely happy to see up close the passion and vibrancy of this city’s wonderful and diverse theater community.”
“We are grateful to the Critics Circle for the awards and for recognizing these productions, of which we are particularly proud,” added Managing Director Michael G. Murphy. “Allegiance and The Scottsboro Boys both shed light on dark periods of American history, and through the lens of theater we were able to entertain and educate Southern California audiences. Each year we strive to produce powerful, important work that generates conversations in our community. We are thankful for the Critics Circle’s ongoing support of excellence in local theater.”
Allegiance, starring Lea Salonga and George Takei, is currently aiming for a Broadway run in the 2013-2014 season.
Founded in 1983 and re-established in 2002, the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle is an independent, nonprofit organization of print and online theater critics dedicated to open and honest dialogue about theatre in San Diego County and to honoring artistic excellence. The members of the Circle are professional critics writing for daily newspapers, magazines, alternative weeklies, entertainment trade publications, broadcast media, and web sites in San Diego County. The Circle’s annual awards for outstanding San Diego theatre are named for Craig Noel, founder and longtime artistic director of The Old Globe.
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Arkansas State University announces the completion of the Rohwer Japanese-American Relocation Center Interpretive Project. ASU’s Arkansas Heritage Sites program, under the direction of Dr. Ruth Hawkins, received more than $190,000 from the National Park Service to interpret and preserve the story of Japanese-American internment during World War II in the Arkansas Delta.
Located in Desha County in southeast Arkansas, the Rohwer Relocation Center housed more than 8,000 Japanese-American citizens as a result of President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 requiring their internment in the months following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Rohwer was one of two relocation centers in Arkansas during the war and is the easternmost internment camp site of the 10 in the United States.
ASU and partners designed, fabricated, and installed directional signage, an interpretive kiosk and panels, audio vignettes, and an informational brochure, all of which are accessible to visitors to the former Rohwer Relocation Center site.
Arkansas State University collaborated with the nearby cities of Dumas and McGehee, Arkansas State Parks, the National Park Service, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and descendants of Japanese American internees to produce an accurate and emotional experience for visitors to the site.
A walking tour guides visitors along the southern boundary of the former camp, past the existing Japanese-American cemetery, terminating with a view of the remaining camp smokestack across fields of cotton. Actor George Takei, who was interned at the Rohwer Relocation Center with his family in 1942, narrates an accompanying audio tour along the route.
Arkansas Heritage Sites program will continue working with the cities of Dumas and McGehee to direct visitors to the Rohwer site. The Rohwer Relocation Center interpretive experience is a key attraction along the developing Delta Heritage Trail State Park, and will play a significant role in plans to create tourism opportunities in southeast Arkansas.