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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Defending Nikkei: Hugh Macbeth and the Japanese American Internment

Hugh Macbeth, Sr., a Black attorney from Los Angeles, is largely forgotten today, but he deserves commemoration as an outstanding defender of Japanese Americans during World War II. Born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1884, Hugh Ellwood Macbeth attended Fisk University and Harvard Law School, graduating in 1908. After living several years in Baltimore, where he was founding editor of the newspaper The Baltimore Times, in 1913 he headed to California.

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In the decades that followed, Macbeth became an important player on the Los Angeles legal and political scene. He concentrated on aiding African American litigants and criminal …

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Speaking Up! Democracy, Justice, Dignity

Speaking Out in Seattle: The JANM Conference

I was privileged to attend the 2013 Japanese American National Museum conference in Seattle. It commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, granting surviving Japanese Americans redress for their wartime confinement. The conference was a concentrated and rather intense experience, for a number of reasons.

I arrived at the conference on Friday, July 5. Sadly, I missed out on the morning planning session for Tule Lake, which I heard afterwards had been quite a lively session. Once I was registered, I went around the hall greeting people I knew and being introduced to others.

The first …

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After Camp, Canadian Style: The Japanese Canadian Post War Experience Conference - Part 2 of 2

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One hint as to the prevailing spirit was that during the day several different people spoke of working in Jewish firms, which were the only ones that did not practice discrimination, or compared their experience with Jewish friends and classmates (Frank Moritsugu spoke of being hired in 1952 by McLean’s and being welcomed by the staff. Soon after, a reporter who had been on assignment returned, ushered Frank into his office, shut the door, and then said, “As the first Jew in this building, let me welcome the first Japanese.” The man, Sid Katz, had broken …

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After Camp, Canadian style: The Japanese Canadian Post War Experience Conference - Part 1 of 2

At the first Japanese Canadian Heritage Committee conference I attended, back in 2010, I was invited to come on the night before the main event and give a warmup with some historical background. At the Keisho conference last year, I was asked to attend and then speak about my reflections at the end. This time, I appeared on both ends, as kickoff speaker the first morning and then as assessor. I am very glad to take on the task of giving an honest appraisal of my personal reactions to the conference and to do some thinking about it.

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First, …

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Nisei Journalists and the Occupation of China: Buddy Uno and Bill Hosokawa Compared - Part 3 or 3

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In 1995, a conference on the Japanese American experience was held at Northwest College in Powell, Wyoming. Among the conference speakers were historian Yuji Ichioka, who presented a paper on Buddy Uno, and Hosokawa. According to surviving tapes of the sessions, Ichioka asserted during his presentation that Uno, despite his work for Tokyo and his belief in the superiority and honorable mission of Japan’s military, was NOT a traitor to the United States.

Rather, he was simply conflicted—a “marginal man” who never felt at home either in Japan or (because of racism) in the US. Ichioka …

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