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https://www.discovernikkei.org/en/interviews/clips/280/

Idealism before war, being red, white and blue

I was so ‘Red, White and Blue,’ so small-town gal, you know, and just really a thorough American, I mean, I’ve changed almost all the way around. But, then, I mean here, you know, teaching Sunday school and this whole thing about being a proud American, and I guess I was. Now, I’m certainly not, I mean. But, then, I mean, I just thought America was such a wonderful country that there could not be any country where people could be so free and no racism... I didn’t realize how bad racism was because in the school world, it’s so different from the working world, you know. And everybody was so nice, I mean, I loved, you know, living there with all the Italians and Slavonians and there were Scots and French and German...everybody. And so, it seemed like a perfect place to grow up.


racism United States

Date: June 16, 2003

Location: California, US

Interviewer: Karen Ishizuka, Akira Boch

Contributed by: Watase Media Arts Center, Japanese American National Museum.

Interviewee Bio

Yuri Kochiyama (nee Mary Nakahara) was born in the southern California community of San Pedro in 1922. She was “provincial, religious, and apolitical” until Japan’s December 7, 1941, bombing of the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawai`i led to the government’s mass incarceration of virtually all Japanese Americans. Her wartime detainment in two concentration camps in the segregated American South prompted her to see the parallels between the treatment of the Nikkei and African Americans.

After the war she married Bill Kochiyama, a veteran of a segregated Japanese American battalion, and lived in New York City. In 1960, the Kochiyamas moved their family into low-cost housing in the African American district of Harlem. Her political involvement there changed her life, especially after her 1963 meeting with Black Nationalist revolutionary Malcolm X, who was assassinated two years later. She has since had a long history of activism: for black liberation and Japanese American redress and against the Vietnam War, imperialism everywhere, and the imprisonment of people for combating injustice.  

She passed away on June 1, 2014, at age 93.  (June 2014)

James Hirabayashi
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James Hirabayashi

Not bringing shame to family

(1926 - 2012) Scholar and professor of anthropology. Leader in the establishment of ethnic studies as an academic discipline

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James Hirabayashi
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James Hirabayashi

Past ties to present situation in Middle East

(1926 - 2012) Scholar and professor of anthropology. Leader in the establishment of ethnic studies as an academic discipline

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Barbara Kawakami
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Barbara Kawakami

Okinawan discrimination

An expert researcher and scholar on Japanese immigrant clothing.

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Wakako Nakamura Yamauchi
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Wakako Nakamura Yamauchi

Her experience as a Japanese-American schoolchild in Oceanside, California, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor

(1924-2018) Artist and playwright.

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Wally Kaname Yonamine
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Wally Kaname Yonamine

His parents' experience with Japanese resistance toward intermarriage with Okinawans

(b.1925) Nisei of Okinawan descent. Had a 38-year career in Japan as a baseball player, coach, scout, and manager.

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Peggie Nishimura Bain
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Peggie Nishimura Bain

Response to loyalty questionnaire

(b.1909) Nisei from Washington. Incarcerated at Tule Lake and Minidoka during WWII. Resettled in Chicago after WWII

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Peggie Nishimura Bain
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Peggie Nishimura Bain

Difficulties finding apartment in Chicago after leaving Minidoka

(b.1909) Nisei from Washington. Incarcerated at Tule Lake and Minidoka during WWII. Resettled in Chicago after WWII

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Richard Kosaki
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Richard Kosaki

Under suspicion after Pearl Harbor

(b. 1924) Political scientist, educator, and administrator from Hawai`i

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Richard Kosaki
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Richard Kosaki

Change in attitudes after World War II

(b. 1924) Political scientist, educator, and administrator from Hawai`i

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Art Shibayama
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Art Shibayama

Thoughts on the post-9/11 atmosphere in the U.S.

(1930-2018) Nisei born in Peru. Taken to the United States during WWII.

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Roger Shimomura
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Roger Shimomura

Grandfather's arrival in the U.S., experiencing discrimination

(b. 1939) Japanese American painter, printmaker & professor

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Roger Shimomura
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Roger Shimomura

Dealing with racism within army unit in Korea

(b. 1939) Japanese American painter, printmaker & professor

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Roger Shimomura
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Roger Shimomura

A conversation with a farmer in Kansas

(b. 1939) Japanese American painter, printmaker & professor

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Roger Shimomura
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Roger Shimomura

Collection of artifacts depicting racial stereotypes influences art

(b. 1939) Japanese American painter, printmaker & professor

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Frank Yamasaki
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Frank Yamasaki

Encountering racial discrimination at a public swimming pool

(b. 1923) Nisei from Washington. Resisted draft during WWII.

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