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), and Pacific Citizens: Larry and Guyo Tajiri and Japanese American Journalism in the World War II Era (University of Illinois Press, 2012) and coeditor of the anthology Miné Okubo: Following Her Own Road (University of Washington Press, 2008). 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 The Great Unknown: Japanese American Sketches (University Press of Colorado, 2016).

Updated June 2017

identity en

Toru Matsumoto: The New York Years

My recent Discover Nikkei article on Tsuyoshi Matsumoto has prompted interest from readers in other members of the Matsumoto family, such as Tsuyoshi’s sister Takako Shibusawa, a leader in social welfare work in postwar Japan, and most especially Tsuyoshi’s younger brother Toru. Toru Matsumoto (1913-1979) was actually the more-renowned brother during his lifetime: in the United States during the 1940s he was known as the author of multiple books, including the notable 1946 memoir A Brother is a Stranger. Following his return to Japan, he became celebrated as a popular media star and teacher of English. Oddly enough ...

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business en

The Eyes Have It: Nisei Contact Lens Pioneer Dr. Newton Wesley

One fun area of work in history is discovering the connections between everyday products and their unheralded inventors. There is the street light, developed by African-American inventor and engineer Lewis H. Latimer. Or take the Bing cherry, developed by Ah Bing, a Chinese immigrant horticulturist in Oregon. Or there is the case of Frank Zamboni, the son of Italian immigrants in Idaho who developed the ice-resurfacing machine that bears his name. One particularly intriguing figure in this respect is Dr. Newton K. Wesley, the Nisei inventor and optometrist who played a leading role in the development of the contact lens ...

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war en

Tsuyoshi Matsumoto—A Different Wartime Story

The Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 had immediate repercussions for Japanese Americans living throughout the nation—not least the Issei and Nisei civilians in Hawaii living near the naval base who were wounded by falling bombs. Amid the nationwide confusion and anger that resulted from the attack, people with Japanese faces were targeted for hostility, harassment, and insults, as well as official discrimination. 

Particularly targeted were the Issei. Barred by law from naturalization, however long they had resided in the United States, they had none of the legal protections of citizenship. Even before Congress voted a Declaration ...

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sports en

Be a Good Sport About it: Early Nikkei Athletes in Louisiana

Over the past several years, I have been engaged in large-scale research on the remarkable and largely-unknown history of ethnic Japanese in Louisiana, especially in the cosmopolitan city of New Orleans. (Readers of Discover Nikkei should check out the groundbreaking series on the subject by Anna Kazumi Stahl and Midori Yenari). One particularly noteworthy aspect of the story of Nikkei in Louisiana during in the first half of the 20th century is the record of their participation in sports, especially at the college level. To be sure, there were only a handful of individuals involved: with such a tiny and ...

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politics en

Loren Miller: African American Defender of Japanese American Equality

Loren Miller (1903-1967), an African American attorney and newspaperman from Los Angeles, worked to build American democracy during a career that spanned almost 40 years. Although Miller worked with the National Lawyers Guild and numerous other organizations, he made his most lasting contributions as a civil rights lawyer during the 1930s and 1940s, in association with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the American Civil Liberties Union. However, in addition to his primary work on behalf of African Americans, Miller’s efforts as a defender of Japanese Americans deserve extended study.

Born in Nebraska and ...

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