Jonathan van Harmelen

Jonathan van Harmelen is currently a Ph.D student in history at UC Santa Cruz specializing in the history of Japanese-American incarceration. He holds a BA in history and French from Pomona College and an MA from Georgetown University. He can be reached at jvanharm@ucsc.edu.

Updated February 2020

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Father Hugh Lavery and the Ten Thousand Mile Parish

In a previous article I co-wrote with historian Greg Robinson, I highlighted the life work of Maryknoll Brother Theophane Walsh. Like a number of Maryknoll priests and nuns active in Los Angeles’s Little Tokyo community, Brother Theophane spent most of his life working with the Japanese American community, helping to organize Boy Scout Troop 145 and, during the war, establishing a Chicago Nisei Youth Hostel for families resettling from camp. Like Brother Theophane, the work of Father Hugh Lavery is also worth remembering, both as a supporter of the Little Tokyo community during the war years and as one ...

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Japanese Culture and Catholic Faith: Maryknoll's Long History in Little Tokyo

April 4, 2021 was Easter Sunday. While Easter celebrations in Little Tokyo do not hold the same importance as community festivities like Nisei Week, the celebration of Christian holidays (and even St. Patrick’s Day) at the St. Francis Xavier Chapel Japanese Catholic Center in Little Tokyo is a tradition that has gone on every year for decades.

Although the number of Catholics among Japanese Americans has always remained small – by government estimates, they only accounted for 2% of the total West Coast Japanese American population in 1940 – the Maryknoll Church of Little Tokyo and its clergy played a distinct ...

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Father Leopold Tibesar – The Shepherd of Seattle  

Perhaps some of the best-known defenders of Japanese Americans during World War II were the religious leaders of Seattle. Leaders like Baptist minister Emery Andrews and Buddhist minister Gladys Sunya Pratt supported the Japanese American community in the face of allegations of treason, and worked with the community throughout the incarceration. One such individual was Father Leopold Tibesar, a Catholic priest and Maryknoll missionary. As historians like Anne Blankenship have written about Father Tibesar’s work with the Seattle community, Tibesar’s long career in Japan, Manchuria, Los Angeles, and Seattle tell the fascinating story of Tibesar’s transnational career ...

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Kinjiro Matsudaira: Mayor of Edmonston, Maryland

In the pre-World War II years, mainland Japanese Americans were all but absent from electoral office. Whereas in Hawaii there were Nisei representatives in the Territorial Assembly and even a Senator, Sanji Abe, those living elsewhere found endemic anti-Japanese prejudice an effective barrier to even running for elected office, though a few West Coast Nisei such as Clarence Arai and Karl Yoneda launched campaigns.

After World War II, a wave of Japanese American politicians rose to prominence as part of the changing dynamics of politics in the West. James Kanno was elected mayor of Fountain Valley in 1957, while in ...

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Edmonia White Grant: A Black Woman Standing Up for Japanese Americans

While West Coast anti-Asian racism is well-known as a cause of the forced removal of Japanese Americans during World War II, the complex history of intergroup relations between Japanese Americans and Black Americans during and after World War II still remains rather unexplored.

In recent years, scholars and activists have begun to better understand the relationship between Japanese Americans and Black Americans. Cheryl Greenberg has studied the reporting of forced removal in the Black American press, while Greg Robinson rediscovered the important story of civil rights attorney Hugh Macbeth’s outstanding wartime efforts to defend Japanese Americans.

A series of ...

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