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Greg Robinson

@Greg

Greg Robinson, a native New Yorker, is Professor of History at l'Université du Québec À Montréal, a French-language institution in Montreal, Canada. He is the author of the books By Order of the President: FDR and the Internment of Japanese Americans (Harvard University Press, 2001), A Tragedy of Democracy; Japanese Confinement in North America (Columbia University Press, 2009), After Camp: Portraits in Postwar Japanese Life and Politics (University of California Press, 2012), Pacific Citizens: Larry and Guyo Tajiri and Japanese American Journalism in the World War II Era (University of Illinois Press, 2012), and The Great Unknown: Japanese American Sketches (University Press of Colorado, 2016), as well as coeditor of the anthology Miné Okubo: Following Her Own Road (University of Washington Press, 2008). Robinson is also coeditor of the volume John Okada - The Life & Rediscovered Work of the Author of No-No Boy (University of Washington Press, 2018).

His historical column “The Great Unknown and the Unknown Great,” is a well-known feature of the Nichi Bei Weekly newspaper. Robinson’s latest book is an anthology of his Nichi Bei columns and stories published on Discover Nikkei, The Unsung Great: Portraits of Extraordinary Japanese Americans (University of Washington Press, 2020). It was recognized with an Association for Asian American Studies Book Award for Outstanding Achievement in History Honorable Mention in 2022. He can be reached at robinson.greg@uqam.ca.


Updated March 2022


Stories from This Author

Thumbnail for Part 7 (1): Shiro Tashiro—Groundbreaking Biologist
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The Amazing Tashiro Family
Part 7 (1): Shiro Tashiro—Groundbreaking Biologist

July 11, 2024 • Greg Robinson

In previous Discover Nikkei columns, I have told the story of Aijiro and Nao Tashiro and their five remarkable children. In these next installments, I wish to explore the career of Aijiro’s younger brother Shiro Tashiro, a brilliant biochemist, and his three children. Shirosuke Tashiro was born on February 12, 1882 in Satsumasendai, Kagoshima, Japan. (He was thus still a young boy when Aijiro, 16 years his senior, left Japan). As Shiro later described it, his family was marginalized in his native …

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Ken Nakazawa Rediscovered
Part IV—After Pearl Harbor

June 2, 2024 • Greg Robinson

Read Part 3 >> Ken Nakazawa was arrested by FBI agents on December 7, 1941, in the wake of Japan’s raid on Pearl Harbor. Presumably his name had already been marked down on the Justice Department’s prewar “ABC list” of potentially dangerous aliens to be rounded up in case of war. At first, he was placed in detention on Terminal Island, and was then sent on to internment at the Justice Department Camp at Fort Missoula in Montana. In August …

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Ken Nakazawa Rediscovered
Part III—the 1930s

May 26, 2024 • Greg Robinson

Read Part II >>  Ken Nakazawa would have defined himself as an internationalist. Throughout his career, he advocated international understanding through study of foreign cultures. At an Institute of International Relations in Riverside in November 1927, he gave a speech proposing that differences between East and West be composed through “positive differences,” as had been the case in art and literature. Yet in the years before 1931, he hardly touched on international politics in his public statements and writings. A …

Thumbnail for Part II—Prewar Cultural Arbiter
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Ken Nakazawa Rediscovered
Part II—Prewar Cultural Arbiter

May 19, 2024 • Greg Robinson

Read Part I >> Although Ken Nakazawa achieved a modicum of public fame in the 1920s from his plays and his writings, he achieved his greatest renown as a public figure in the following decade. A watershed moment for Nakazawa was his selection as an essayist by the Boston-based Atlantic Monthly magazine. His first contribution, which appeared in the Atlantic’s February 1929 issue, was “The Spirit of Japanese Poetry.” Nakazawa provided an atmospheric, almost Lafcadio Hearnesque reading of Japanese poetry—one …

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Ken Nakazawa Rediscovered
Part I—The Early Years

May 12, 2024 • Greg Robinson

Prominent among the few Issei to be accepted in mainstream American culture in the years before World War II was Ken Nakazawa. Nakazawa was a well-respected professor at University of Southern California—one of the first ethnic Japanese on the faculty of an important American university—as well as a lecturer, essayist, playwright and interpreter of Japanese culture. He also served as diplomat and community leader at the Japanese consulate in Los Angeles. However, Nakazawa's outspoken support of Japan’s invasions and occupation of China …

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Japan and the U.S. Cotton Trade in the 1930s

April 29, 2024 • Greg Robinson

The history of New Orleans, like the rest of the American South, is fundamentally intertwined with the cotton trade. Even in the 20th century, long after the antebellum era of “King Cotton,” New Orleans reigned as the nation’s largest cotton market. During this time, trade shifted to a new center: Japan. Through the first half of the 20th century raw cotton represented the bulk of US exports to Japan, helping fuel Japan's industrial revolution. The commerce expanded most heavily after …

Thumbnail for Part 6: Sabro and Arthur Tashiro - Multitalented Brothers
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The Amazing Tashiro Family
Part 6: Sabro and Arthur Tashiro - Multitalented Brothers

April 12, 2024 • Greg Robinson

In this column, I will round out my history of the amazing family of Aijiro and Nao Tashiro by discussing the lives of their younger sons Sabro (AKA Saburo or Sab) and Arthur. Sabro Tashiro was born in New Haven, Connecticut in February 1910, and moved with his family to Seattle after the end of World War I. During the summer of 1925 and 1926, he worked at an American salmon cannery in Tenakee, Alaska, alongside Swedish, German, Greek, and …

Thumbnail for Part 5: Nao Tashiro—Issei Woman Teacher and Witness
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The Amazing Tashiro Family
Part 5: Nao Tashiro—Issei Woman Teacher and Witness

April 5, 2024 • Greg Robinson

I have embarked on a series of columns on the prolific and talented Tashiro family. I have already posted columns on Aijiro “Frank” Tashiro and three of his children, Kenji (AKA Ken), Aiko, and Aiji. Here I propose to add a study of Nao Tashiro, the wife of Aijiro and mother of their children. Nao Tashiro was born Onaozan “Nao” Hasegawa in Echigo Province (as it was then called) in northeastern Honshu, Japan. Her father was an educated Japanese of Samurai …

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My Cousin Judy: An Inspiration

March 31, 2024 • Greg Robinson

My dear cousin Judy Mackey (Baker) passed away on February 11, 2024, at the age of 99. During her long career as an economist, she served as a role model and inspiration for many people, especially for women breaking into professional fields. I want to speak here about how she helped shape my work as a historian and scholar of Japanese Americans. She was born Judith Rosenblum in New York in January 1925, the only child of Moses and Sophia …

Thumbnail for Gratitude for Art Hansen—“A Gifted Mentor and Inspiration”
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Gratitude for Art Hansen—“A Gifted Mentor and Inspiration”

March 18, 2024 • Greg Robinson , Nichi Bei News

Among specialists in Japanese American history, few have made such an enduring contribution as Arthur Hansen. While his work as a longtime scholar and activist is well known in the Nikkei community, I want to pay tribute to him in his role as a gifted mentor and inspiration, to me and so many others. (Some of this column is taken from my essay in a volume produced 15 years ago, on the occasion of Art’s retirement.) It is hard for me …

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