Free iBook: History of Portland’s Japantown

» 10 June 2014 » In History / DBQ's, Publishing » 4 Comments

Portland’s Japantown Revealed Cover

I’m pleased to introduce my latest multitouch iBook: Portland’s Japantown Revealed. Free at iTunes.
It’s a collection of historic documents, photographs and interviews that tell the story of Portland’s “Nihonmachi” (Japantown) - a once vibrant community that disappeared with the forced removal and incarceration of its citizens. It's the fourth title in my Homefront USA series of iBooks. 

It’s filled with over a hundred archival photographs and dozens of video interviews with former Japantown residents selected from the collection of the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center. The book details life from the 1890s until the eve of WWII when it had grown to a bustling neighborhood with over 100 businesses. Located within a twelve block area in an area north of Burnside St and west of the Willamette River, it was a home to scores Japanese American families and a regional destination for others who wanted to buy traditional food, receive dental and medical care, find legal assistance, and take care of their banking needs.

ONLC 01856 Morimoto Kawamoto truck

One exciting feature of the iBook are interactive “Portland Revealed” widgets that allow the reader to blend historic and contemporary photographs. I created them by seeking out locations of historic photographs where the architecture had been preserved and re-photographing the contemporary setting. The resulting overlay lets the user “paint” the historic figures into modern settings.

“ ... we just didn't know what was going to happen to us. Were they going to shoot us, or are they going to send us all to Japan, and we can't even speak Japanese properly.”

The book details the Japanese American reaction to the attack on Pearl Harbor and the uncertainty that swept through Nihonmachi. A Japanese American woman who was nineteen at time recalls "Well, they won't take us, we're citizens ... "we're citizens," that's all we kept saying, "they wouldn't take us." A  man looks back and recalls thinking “ ... we just didn't know what was going to happen to us. Were they going to shoot us, or are they going to send us all to Japan, and we can't even speak Japanese properly.”

To give the reader historic context for the temper of the times, the book includes pamphlets, posters and movie clips that exemplify the anti-Japanese rhetoric of the era. Portland’s Japantown residents retell the story of the sudden arrests and disappearance of community leaders in the days following Pearl Harbor.

By February of 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 cleared the way for the forced removal and incarceration of Portland’s Nihonmachi.

Japanese-American child who will go with his parents to Owens Valley

Once the exclusion orders were issued, Portland’s Japanese Americans had only a few days to get their business affairs in order before having to report to the Portland Assembly Center. Many were barred by the Alien Land Laws, from owning property, thus their businesses investments were in fixtures and inventory. Limited to only a suitcase of personal possessions, many had to leave everything behind or liquidate possession or properties in quick sales for only pennies on the dollar. Within days Nihonmachi’s residents were stripped of their civil rights, freedom and financial equity.

Their first stop was the Portland Assembly Center operated in the summer of 1942. It was one of the many temporary incarceration centers built in large population centers on the west coast until more permanent centers could be built further inland. The Portland Assembly Center was really the Pacific International Livestock Exposition Pavilion. Plywood construction and rough partitions could not cloak the smell of manure, or deter the swarms of black flies.

Page from Portland’s Japantown RevealedFor four months, over 3,500 evacuees made do in this roughshod temporary housing with minimal plumbing and little privacy. No information was given on how long they would be at the assembly center or where they would go next. See interviews with people incarcerated at that center and contrast them with the cheerful photographs circulated to the US public. Most of Portland’s Nihonmachi was eventually moved from the Portland Assembly Center to more permanent incarceration at the Minidoka War Relocation Center.

But after the war ... the Japanese town was not there... I don't think there was that central feeling of Japantown. ~ Former resident

Released from incarceration in 1945, Portland’s Japanese community faced tough decisions about where to “restart” their lives. Most had lost their livelihoods, homes and possessions in the wartime roundup. Released from incarceration in 1945, Portland’s Japanese community faced tough decisions about where to “restart” their lives. Most had lost their livelihoods, homes and possessions in the wartime roundup.

In the post-war years, some Japanese American businesses were re-established in what had been Portland’s Japantown. Nonetheless, the vitality of a neighborhood that once was a vibrant Nihonmachi never fully recovered from the US government’s forced removal and incarceration of its Japanese American residents during the war years.

Unless otherwise noted images from the Nikkei Legacy Center.
Young girl detainee by Russell Lee. 
U.S. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information.

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Learning to Think Like a Historian

» 03 June 2014 » In Commentary, History / DBQ's, Strategies, Students, Teachers » No Comments

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I’m joined by other educators who comment on “Teaching History By Encouraging Curiosity.” Ideas on how to create a more engaging history classroom that teaches students the foundations of historical thinking. With links to more resources and a podcast.

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21st C Social Studies at edcampOCSS – Portland Ore

» 17 April 2014 » In Events, PD, Teachers » No Comments

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Calling all educators interested in Social Studies, History, Geography, Government, and Economics who live in the NW. Plus Humanities, Librarians, Technology and Administrators. K-12 plus college level. Here’s a great reason to head to Portland and connect with other educators!

The Oregon Council for the Social Studies is sponsoring a social studies themed edcampOCSS in Portland Oregon on May 17, 2014. (8:30 AM – 2:15 PM then go somewhere for beers)

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Incarceration of Portland’s Japanese Americans in WWII

» 14 February 2014 » In History / DBQ's, Projects, Students » No Comments

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Using video interviews of camp internees, archived photographs, and historic documents; the lesson guides students through the experience of Japanese-Americans incarcerated during WWII. This multi-media lesson was designed by students working with the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center.

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iPhone Walking Tour of Historic Japantown Portland

» 01 February 2014 » In Ed Tech, History / DBQ's, Projects, Students » No Comments

japantownpdx

I’m pleased to introduce you to Japantown PDX, a free iOS app that I designed with the assistance of the Nikkei Legacy Center, GammaPoint LLC, and my students at the University of Portland. Explore Portland Oregon’s historic Japantown with this user-friendly walking tour. The city’s vibrant pre WWII Japanese American community is archived in over 125 photographs and audio clips. This GPS-enabled app guides you through Portland’s eight block Japantown, a bustling community in the early decades of the twentieth century – better known today as the colorful Old Town / Chinatown neighborhood.

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Tips for Motivating Student Writers with iBooks Author

» 05 January 2014 » In Ed Tech, History / DBQ's, How To, Publishing, Students » 9 Comments

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My preservice teachers just published an iBook collection of document-based questions in US and World History. It’s now available free at iTunes. Here’s some tips on how to turn your students into published authors.

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Music and the Vietnam Anti-War Movement

» 30 December 2013 » In Ed Tech, History / DBQ's, Projects » No Comments

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One of my University of Portland pre-service teachers showcases his online DBQ “The Vietnam War.” It explores the relationship between the civil rights movement and the Vietnam war as reflected in the music videos of the era.

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The Power of Propaganda: A Student-Designed DBQ

» 29 December 2013 » In Ed Tech, History / DBQ's, Projects » No Comments

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One of my University of Portland pre-service teachers showcases his online DBQ “The Power of Propaganda.” It documents WWII and Cold War-era films and posters from multiple perspectives.

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Media Manipulation: Vietnam War DBQ

» 17 December 2013 » In Ed Tech, History / DBQ's, Projects » 1 Comment

LSU-Vietnam-war-protest-1970--featured

One of my University of Portland pre-service teachers showcases his online DBQ – “Media and War: An Analysis of Vietnam War Propaganda.” It provides a selection of media from opposing perspectives and asks the reader to answer the following question: How does media impact our perception of war? Damian Wierzbicki also reflects on the experience of designing DBQs.

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Visions of Freedom: The American Revolution

» 08 December 2013 » In Ed Tech, History / DBQ's, Projects, Students » 2 Comments

Phillis Wheatley featured

I’ve asked my University of Portland students to reflect on a DBQ assignment and invited them to guest post on my blog. Here is “Visions of Freedom: The American Revolution” – a DBQ designed by Collin Soderberg-Chase. This DBQ presents multiple “views of freedom” viewed through the “lenses” of differing perspectives held during American revolutionary era. The essential question examines what factors influence one’s vision of freedom.

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