The site of the concentration camp at Manzanar is haunting in its contrast of beauty and horror

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Its location between two mountain ranges is astonishingly beautiful, but also quite remote and hard to get to, in the sense that “out of sight” is also “out of mind” when it came to temporarily disappearing an entire population of American citizens during the war.  The exhibitions at the visitors center will convey both the violation of civil rights that Japanese internment represents in U.S. history but also the everyday acts of resistance that Japanese Americans engaged in, from the overt resistance of the No-No boys to the more subtle resistance embodied in the beautiful gardens that camp prisoners built to resist their own dehumanization.  You can learn more about how to visit at https://www.nps.gov/manz/index.htm and if you want some helpful listening along the drive, check out Codeswitch’s episode America’s Concentration Camps.  For more in-depth reading and historical context, check out One Long Night: A Global History of Concentration Camps.  And if you are traveling with kids, here is a helpful roundup of books by the blog Pragmatic Mom.  Or explore the ideas through fiction with Samira Ahmed’s dystopian children’s book imagining the internment of Muslim Americans entitled Internment. The film Farewell to Manzanar is worth a viewing.  And if you want to be inspired by stories of organizing and resistance, get a copy of The Grassroots Struggle for Japanese American Redress and Reparations.  An internet search on #neveragainisnow will connect you to current struggles to protect the civil liberties of vulnerable populations in the U.S. right now.

Image credit: Original watercolor by Jennifer R. Myhre ©2019

Visit the Hull House Museum

DSC_2723Founded by Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr in 1889 in a working class and predominantly immigrant neighborhood in Chicago, Hull House was a radical experiment in local democracy.   It offered a kindergarten, classes in art, music and culture, meeting spaces for political and labor organizations, amongst many other activities that built community and solidarity.  The residents of Hull House were at the forefront of progressive political organizing from the 1890s into the 1920s.  Today the museum there continues this legacy of democratic community building.  It is totally worth a visit if you’re ever in Chicago!

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I recently learned about this new museum in Matewan, which takes a people’s history approach to the labor struggles there.  There are so few museums in the U.S. that cover the history of U.S. labor organizing, so this museum fills an important gap.  Here’s a link to a film about the museum:

De-mythologizing Rosa Parks

There’s a classic essay by Herbert Kohl entitled “The Politics of Children’s Literature: What’s Wrong with the Rosa Parks Myth” that summarizes how most children’s stories about Rosa Parks make it seem as if her act of civil disobedience was spontaneous and unconnected to wider civic rights activism.  However, Rosa Parks was a radical activist her whole life.  A recent article in the Washington Post discusses what the recently opened Rosa Park Collection tells us about Rosa Parks and her long history of activism for social justice.  Learn more about how she was a rebel from an early age by reading the article in its entirety.

Searching for Malcolm X

I was thrilled to learn about this brand new young adult novel about Malcolm X, co-written by his daughter Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon, which made the National Book Awards long list:
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This led me to wonder whether there are any historical sites to visit if you want to learn more about Malcolm X. Sadly, I learned that the one National Park site is really just a plaque at the location where he was born, because the house he was born into was demolished. There is a move to preserve his childhood home in Boston MA, where he lived with his sister and it’s not too late to join and raise awareness for the fundraising campaign for the Malcolm X–Ella Little-Collins House sponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.