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

Updated July 2021

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Nisei Journalists and the Occupation of China: Buddy Uno and Bill Hosokawa Compared - Part 2 of 3

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Kumpei William Hosokawa was born in Seattle on January 30, 1915. Although he did not begin speaking English until he went to kindergarten, he developed an early interest in reading and sports. He excelled in basketball, and later helped found a local Nisei basketball league.  Like many young Nisei, he spent several summers in Alaska working in salmon canneries. 

In 1933, Hosokawa entered University of Washington to study journalism, although he was warned that no mainstream newspaper would ever hire a Japanese American (Hosokawa’s younger brother Robert, universally known as “Rube”, would follow him into journalism). …

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Nisei Journalists and the Occupation of China: Buddy Uno and Bill Hosokawa Compared - Part 1 of 3

One of the difficulties of doing Japanese American history is maintaining a balanced perspective in the face of politically and ideologically-charged debates. Many chroniclers of Japanese Americans, in trying to debunk racist wartime images of Nisei as disloyal and pro-Japanese, have perhaps gone rather too far in the other direction.

Eric Muller, the distinguished legal scholar and historian, has eloquently complained that books, plays, and exhibits have largely erased the Japanese connections of prewar Nisei, and have tended to portray them in almost Hollywood-style terms as assimilated small-town Americans, as “a group composed entirely of bobby-soxers drinking malteds, jitterbugging, and …

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Dateline Toronto: the Keisho Conference Commemorating the 70th Anniversary of Japanese Canadian Internment

On the weekend of March 31-April 1, I traveled to Toronto to attend the Keisho Conference at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre. The conference, organized by the Heritage Committee of the JCCC (with help from Sedai, the Japanese Canadian Legacy Project) was designed to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Japanese Canadian confinement. There were a few hundred Japanese Canadians in attendance, plus some non-Japanese. On the morning of the first day, we were seated in the large Kobayashi hall, which was dotted with round tables and chairs for the occasion. I sat with a friendly contingent of Nisei women from Hamilton, …

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THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT—The life and times of Hisaye Yamamoto: writer, activist, speaker

Hisaye Yamamoto, who died on Jan. 30, 2011 at the age of 89, remains known primarily as a literary artist, a crafter of powerful short fiction—such as her signature stories “Seventeen Syllables” and “Yoneko’s Earthquake”—as well as assorted newspaper columns. Yet the story of her development as a writer is less known, and bears exploring, especially since it ties in with the many other lives that she led. For Hisaye Yamamoto was the last and quite possibly the greatest representative of a whole generation of Nisei literary and political thinkers who were featured in the Japanese vernacular press in the …

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Parallel Wars: Japanese American and Japanese Canadian Internment Films - Part 2

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The War Between Us, a Canadian TV-film directed by Anne Wheeler and released in 1995, is a considerably more sophisticated and critical film than Hell to Eternity (from a different generation, in fairness). It recounts the events of the wartime removal of 22,000 West Coast Japanese Canadians by the Canadian government. In February 1942, one week after U.S president Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, Canadian Prime Minister W.L. Mackenzie King ordered all people of Japanese ancestry, whether aliens or citizens, removed from the Pacific Coast of Canada. After being taken from their homes by an …

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