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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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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A Family of Artists - Part 2: The Goodenow Brothers Make Their Own Marks

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Although their father Kyohei Inukai achieved the greatest renown as an artist, the brothers Julian, Girard and Earle Goodenow sons took their family name and their chief support from their mother Lucene. After separating from Kyohei Inukai, Lucene moved with the three boys to Philadelphia, where she worked briefly as a magazine writer, then settled in Battle Creek, Michigan by 1921.

In 1925 she married Col. Lucien Taliaferro, a retired army officer, and settled in Connecticut. During the early 1930s, she moved to Hollywood and joined the California Arts Club. Although she did painting and design, …

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A Family of Artists - Part 1: Kyohei Inukai, Society Portraitist

One remarkable clan of artists is that of the Inukai-Goodenow family. It was formed by Kyōhei Inukai, a Japanese immigrant who became a popular society portrait painter (and fencing enthusiast) in 1920s New York, and his first wife Lucene Goodenow, a writer, painter and sculptor. Their three sons, who were raised under their mother’s family name, would take up careers as artists and designers in midcentury America.

Much of what sketchy information is available about Kyōhei Inukai comes from his unfinished English-language memoir “Confessions of a Heathen”, which was rediscovered by collector Michiko Davey after his death and eventually published …

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