Jonathan van Harmelen

Jonathan van Harmelen is currently a PhD 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 has completed an MA from Georgetown University. From 2015 - 2018, he previously worked for the National Museum of American History as an intern and researcher. He can be reached at

Updated February 2020

identity en

Wisdom through troubling times: The Life of LaVerne Senyo Sasaki

Reverend Sasaki is no stranger to challenges in life; as one of the longest-serving Jodo Shinshu Buddhist priests in the United States, Reverend LaVerne Senyo Sasaki has helped maintain the presence of Buddhist church within Northern California for over 60 years.

Now almost 90 years young, Reverend Sasaki still preaches at Buddhist Temples. At a service at the Buddhist Church of San Francisco in October 2019, he recalled humorously the difficulties of holding services and keeping audiences chanting sutras for fifteen minutes.

Yet despite these minor frustrations, Sasaki remains proud of his work. The son of a Buddhist reverend and ...

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politics en

The Pulitzer Prize and Japanese Americans in the South

As with other tragic chapters in United States history, the incarceration of Japanese Americans has had a lasting legacy on American culture. While the history of race relations in the American South has traditionally focused on black-white relations and the legacies of Jim Crow, a parallel field examining the experience of Asian Americans in the Deep South has emerged, featuring the work of such authors as Greg Robinson, John Howard, Moon-Ho Jung, Stephanie Hinnershitz, and Lucy M. Cohen. In places scattered throughout the American South, the incarceration left an imprint on the social landscape: the area surrounding the Rohwer and ...

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community en

Kizuna 2020: Nikkei Kindness and Solidarity During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Importance of Place: The Manzanar Pilgrimage and COVID-19

Like so many events these days, the 51st annual Manzanar Pilgrimage was cancelled on Thursday, April 17 due to COVID-19. For the first time, the Manzanar Pilgrimage, a tradition that brings former incarcerees, activists, and scholars together, will not be held on the grounds of the Manzanar Concentration Camp. The pilgrimage’s organizing group, the Manzanar Committee, announced in its press brief that while the decision was difficult, “the health and well-being of our community, particularly our elders, is most important, and cancelling is in everyone’s best interests.”

For Bruce Embrey, the co-chair of the Manzanar Committee, the move ...

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war en

Memories on the Open Market

For scholars of Japanese American history, telling the story of incarceration is important yet difficult. Doing justice to the complicated narrative of camp life and the experiences at ten unique camps across the deserts and swamps of the U.S. is not easy. As a historian, I find it is important to look beyond government records and interviews when I write about the history of the incarceration. One way I do so is by examining objects of incarceration. In a previous article, I discussed the ways in which personal items such as postcards help tell broader stories of removal and ...

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Sometimes the Smaller Things Tell a Greater Story

A woman arrives at New York City after a long trip from Detroit. She writes to a distant friend about her long travels from home to Detroit and, finally, to New York City for the first time. The city was astonishing; vast city streets, landmarks abound, yet riddled with trash and squalor from a lack of upkeep. The Metropolitan Opera House offered a performance of the Ballet Russe, a wonder for someone visiting a cosmopolitan city for the first time. The most emotional experience, however, was riding a commuter train along the New York City skyline and watching the shining ...

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