Greg Robinson

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 columns, The Unsung Great: Portraits of Extraordinary Japanese Americans (University of Washington Press, 2020). He can be reached at robinson.greg@uqam.ca.

Updated July 2021

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Lotus Long: The Short Career of a Screen Siren

Ryan Murphy’s recent Netflix miniseries Hollywood uses counterfactual history to tell some real-life stories of Hollywood. Among them is the sad tale of Anna May Wong (played by Michelle Krusiec), the brilliant film actress of the 1930s who faced typecasting due to her Asian ancestry. Relegated to stereotypical “dragon lady” roles, Wong was shut out of more worthy parts, notably the screen adaptation of Pearl S. Buck’s Chinese novel The Good Earth, in favor of white actors in yellowface. However, Anna May Wong was not the only Asian American actress in Hollywood films of the prewar era. There were …

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Toge Fujihira: Master Photographer and World Traveler - Part 2

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Even as Fujihira and Shilin made their documentaries on Native Americans, they also collaborated on a series of films for the Protestant Film Commission. In 1951, Fujihira travelled to Brazil to shoot a film on Church missionary work there. The following year, they released An End to Darkness, a nondenominational film about a Liberian boy’s struggle for a Christian education and his desire to return home and serve his people. 

Similarly, Challenge in the Sun (1952) depicted a young missionary couple representing the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Missionary District of the Panama Canal Zone, …

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Toge Fujihira: Master Photographer and World Traveler - Part 1

Toge Fujihira (whose family name was sometimes reported as Fujihara) left the West Coast in the years before World War II and settled in New York, where he distinguished himself as a photographer and documentary filmmaker. During the postwar era, he established himself as a professional cameraman and photographer, capturing prize-winning photos and films of landscapes and people in the United States and around the world.

Toge Fujihira was born Kazuo Togo Fujihira in Seattle, Washington on January 18, 1915, the eldest of four children of Chu (AKA Fuji) and Kiyo Fujihira. During his teen years, he starred as an …

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The N-Word and the Japanese American Press

In the wide world of American racial epithets, one word seems to stand apart as uniquely hateful and wounding: the term euphemized as the “N-word.” Applied to African Americans, it is a corruption of the term Negro—a term that has gone through its own complex history. Like the Nazi swastika, the Confederate flag, or the flaming cross, the “N-word” represents such a toxic symbol of prejudice that even neutral utterance of it, especially by nonblacks, is taboo. (There are hate words in other societies that have their own special power: author Greg remembers being told as a child to never, …

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Kenji Toda: Groundbreaking Artist and Scholar

Not long ago I did a Discover Nikkei piece on the artist Bunji Tagawa, who made a career of scientific drawing for Scientific American, and who was lauded for the artistry of his technical work. I later discovered that Tagawa was preceded in the field by another prodigious Japanese artist-turned-scientific illustrator, Kenji Toda. Toda worked as staff artist in the Department of Zoology at the University of Chicago for 56 years, during which time he did thousands of drawings for zoology textbooks and biological works, and won international recognition for his work. His drawings ranged from endocrine glands …

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