Schooling of Japanese American Children at Relocation Centers During World War II: Miss Mabel Jamison and Her Teaching of Art at Rohwer, Arkansas

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The general story of education of Japanese Americans imprisoned in camps in this country during World War II has long been known. Little has been written, however, about the individual teachers who agreed to live and work with the students in the camps during the period of incarceration. The story of “Miss Jamison” and the education program in the prison camps at Rohwer and Jerome in Arkansas provides a fresh new view of a Caucasian teacher who came to work with a “strange” group of students, but who was herself educated in the process. Through evidence from Jamison’s papers, contemporary documents, historical accounts, interviews with survivors and even from the students’ art work Miss Jamison preserved, Ziegler creates a perceptive account of the wartime ordeal of the more than 110,000 Japanese Americans, two-thirds of them American citizens, from a unique point of view. This book is a moving and significant expansion of our knowledge of the human dimensions of a wartime tragedy.


“The general story of education in the camps has long been known ... Little however has been written about the teachers, and to the best of my knowledge and belief this is the first book to focus on an individual teacher ... A few of the “people minded” camp teachers, such as Eleanor Gerard Sekerak, one of the JANM’s fifteen honored teachers from the Topaz, Utah camp and who taught my friend and collaborator, Harry H. L. Kitano there, came to camp out of sympathy with the plight of young Japanese Americans. This was not, as Jan Zeigler shows us, the case with Jamison, who, although in the end equally “people minded,” had known nothing about Japanese Americans, who were as she herself put it, “entirely strange to me” until she came to Rohwer in Janury 1943. Jamison’s story, fleshed out here from a wide variety of personal and official sources, provides us with a new and fresh view of an American concentration camp, the view of a teacher who was herself educated by the experience. This book is a moving and significant expansion of our knowledge of the human dimensions of a wartime tragedy.” – (from the Commendatory Foreword) Roger Daniels, Charles Phelps Taft Professor Emeritus of History, University of Cincinnati

“Thanks to the remarkable “Life Interrupted” project, co-sponsored by the Public History program at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and the Japanese American national Museum and funded by the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, public knowledge of the two Japanese American concentration camps in World War II Arkansas and the education offered the 4,000 plus school-age children incarcerated there has been greatly enriched. Still, both the topic of the Rohwer and Jerome camps and that of schooling in the wartime facilities housing people of Japanese ancestry remain seriously understudied relative to other dimensions of the Japanese American exclusion and detention experience. Dr. Jan Ziegler’s stunning volume will be especially appealing to scholarly and lay readers alike. It ranks with Thomas James’s Exile Within and Karen L. Riley’s Schools Behind Barbed Wire in the top tier of books on camp education and is in a class by itself on the literature pertaining to the Arkansas camps in general.” – Arthur A. Hansen, Director, Center for Oral and Public History, California State University, Fullerton

Table of Contents

1. Uprooted in America
2. Destination: Arkansas
3. The Camp School: An “Experiment” Without Limitations
4. The Community School
5. The Curriculum
6. Delta Pioneers
7. Teaching ‘America’ in Captivity
8. “Don’t Fence Me In”
9. “What Am I Gonna Do About These Japanese Eyes?”
10. “And Stay Out”
Bibliographical Essay

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