More Canada: The Komagata Maru

Lest we assume that the US has a monopoly on discriminatory immigration policies in North America, let us remember our brothers to the north, and the way that they treated Indian immigrants in the previous century:

On May 23rd, 1914, the Komagata Maru entered Burrard Inlet carrying 
376 passengers looking forward to starting their lives in Canada. The 
ship and those on board arrived despite the recent introduction of 
Canada’s discriminatory Continuous Passage Regulation, a law that 
required immigrants to Canada to arrive by a single, direct journey 
from their country of origin. Because no direct route between the Dominion of Canada and British 
India existed, this policy was a roundabout means to exclude Indian 
immigration and preserve — in the words of a popular song of the 
time — “White Canada forever.”

Like the Canadians on shore, all Komagata Maru passengers were 
subjects of the British Empire and many had fought for Britain, upholding the very freedoms they now desired. Upon arrival, the passengers were immediately detained by Canadian immigration authorities determined to keep the ship at anchor. Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet became the 
flashpoint for a standoff that gained international attention.

Their inability to land caused hardship for the passengers, who soon 
lacked food and water. The passengers were also denied access to 
medical attention, communication with their family and proper legal 
counsel. Their challenge to Canada’s right to deny their landing was 
delayed and eventually denied. On July 23, 1914, the Komagata Maru 
passengers were forced to leave Canada.

– From


Making Precedents Count

Go, California!

Last week the state passed AB 351, a challenge to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA 2012). The bill protects Californians from unconstitutional actions by the federal government, like the NDAA’s ability to suspend habeus corpus (yeah, I linked to Wikipedia. Don’t be shy about using it to double check your understanding of habeus corpus.) It’s not the first state to challenge the NDAA (Alaska and Virginia), but what’s nice about the bill is:

1. It was introduced by a Republican (good for you, Tim Donnelly!) and sponsored by a Democrat (and to you, Mark Leno!). Even in these dark times of partisan struggle, it is possible to come together around the things that matter, like making sure that American residents and citizens cannot be held indefinitely without charges just because they are suspected of being enemy combatants.

2. It proves that we’ve learned at least a little bit from our past. Remember WWII when the government detained thousands of Japanese Americans without trial under suspicion of being “the enemy”? Remember all the mistakes we made after 9/11? This is a step away from all those mistakes. Towards something more just and constitutional. Ahilan Arulanantham has a nice piece connecting the JA incarceration and the passage of AB 351here. Short, too.

You can read about the bill’s passage or read the bill itself. Or, if you’re really excited about constitutional rights read both. While drinking a your required pumpkin spice latte (Seriously. Everywhere has a version now…) and thinking how nice it is that we’re trying to not repeat our shameful history.


I’ve been interning with Densho the Japanese American Heritage Project (digitizing Japanese American history and making it available in various ways) this summer. Amidst creating finding aids and QA testing some digital repository software, I’ve been transcribing some handwritten letters because handwriting and OCR are not friends. Not even frenemies.

The letters are from Helen Amerman Manning, who taught high school at Minidoka as a young woman. She writes a lot about how nice everyone (staff and internees) are, how dusty it is, and whenever she washes her hair. She goes to choir a lot, too. So much of the letters are daily observations that it’s easy to miss the incredibly historical parts (she meets Min Yasui almost as soon as she gets there. Like almost everyone else she meets, she thinks he’s wonderful and bright.). Then I came across this excerpt today:

I had a nice card from Ren today and a letter from Aunty Hope. Confidentially she burns me up with her failure to realize that the evacuees are not war prisoners but over 50% are American citizens! And a lot more than that proportion are people who came here for a new start in life (just as her ancestors did) or else were born here (just as she was) and are completely in sympathy with the American ideals. Again I would remind her that no Japanese in America has been convicted of sabotage but many American citizens (many native-born!) of German ancestry have!

I’d just like to see how the DAR’s would behave under the same circumstances! Ask her if she wants her American friends with German names put in concentration camps in this country! Ask her how she likes the idea of fellow citizens living behind barbed wire with MP’s on duty, and no charges against them! If Tom and Ten are fighting so that we can send the “Japs” back to Japan and put the Jew and negro “in their places” she’d better look out for fear they start sending everyone but the American Indians back where they came from! How do you suppose the 5000 or more Japanese Americans in the army feel about fighting for the preservation of race prejudice? Would Tom and Ren have any misgivings about loyalty to a country that wasn’t sure it would have room for them if they lived “to come back”? Would they fear to go out to die for America and leave their aged parents (most volunteers’ parents are over 60) uprooted in a potentially hostile country?

I love the bit about sending everyone but the American Indians back to where they came from, because who gets counted as an “America” remains such a modern argument.

Densho Archive Image: denshopd-p171-00040

To find the letter, go to: > Archive > Photo and Document Collections > Private Collections > Helen Amerman Manning Collection > page 2 > denshopd-p171-00040

Summer Reading: Boxers and Saints

Gene Luen Yang has two new books this year, Boxers and Saints. The books act like fraternal twins, looking at Chinese reactions to Western interference at the turn of the 20th century: Boxers from the perspective of a boy who joins the Boxer rebellion; Saints from the perspective of a girl who converts to Christianity. American Born Chinese remains Yang’s definitive work in my mind, but I still tore through both of these in less than a day. Good stuff.

boxers saints yangWhat’s it about? Caught in China’s turbulent Westernization, two young people take different paths– one joins the Boxer rebellion to restore China’s independence; the other searches for autonomy as a woman through Christianity.

Why should you read this book?  If you liked American Born Chinese. Yang does a good job of humanizing two opposite social movements through the eyes of two very relate-able young people. He captures their devotion to their causes as well as their coming-of-age journeys.

Why shouldn’t you read the book? If you really don’t like violence. If you need a happy ending (historically, you know what’s going to happen. The last Chinese dynasty collapses. The country enjoys a few years of democracy, then plunges into civil war, World War II, Communism, etc. The book doesn’t mess with history). If you want to learn about the history of China. History is the backdrop of the story, not the focus.


Both books are available September 10, 2013.

Out of the Archives: Georgia

Today’s edition of Out of the Archives was totally serendipitous. I was browsing down a deep, deep rabbit hole of library/information literacy/digital media resources/human-physical-space-digital-space-interaction when I came across the Digital Public Library of America. And a small slice of this big, big library full of lots and lots of stuff caught my eye. A small, country slice out of Richmond County Georgia:


Descriptive Title:
Photograph of Harry Chung’s Grocery, Augusta, Richmond County, Georgia, 1933
Augusta, 1933. Harry Chung’s Grocery located at the corner of 11th and Hopkins Streets.
Richmond County
Type of original:
Augusta | Asian Americans | Business
Cite as:
Vanishing Georgia, Georgia Division of Archives and History, Office of Secretary of State.
Usage note:
Contact repository re: reproduction and usage.
Held by:
Georgia Archives, 5800 Jonesboro Road, Morrow, GA 3026
Reference URL:


More on the Digital Library of America:

The Digital Public Library of America brings together the riches of America’s libraries, archives, and museums, and makes them freely available to the world. It strives to contain the full breadth of human expression, from the written word, to works of art and culture, to records of America’s heritage, to the efforts and data of science. The DPLA aims to expand this crucial realm of openly available materials, and make those riches more easily discovered and more widely usable and used, through its three main elements:

1. A portal that delivers students, teachers, scholars, and the public to incredible resources, wherever they may be in America.

2. A platform that enables new and transformative uses of our digitized cultural heritage.

3. An advocate for a strong public option in the twenty-first century.

Try searching for Asian America. Then on the subjects box, I chose Asian Americans–Georgia–Augusta, for 30 pictures of the Chinese American community in Richmond County, Georgia from 1914 to 1962. Theoretically these pictures should also be on the Digital Library of Georgia but a preliminary search found me only 10, in the Vanishing Georgia Collection.

Chinatown, Buzz Buzz Buzz

Rounding out this week is a series of images I found on Buzzfeed. Buzzfeed, you say? Yup. Why not. Some staffer over there pulled a nice bunch of lovely pictures from Getty Images of SF Chinatown in the 1950’s. It’s a cool mix of elementary school kids, local economy, and night club dancers, and neon lights. This kid is happy about it:


It’s good timing, too. The National flags and women in cheongsam really set the tone for this week’s post on Shanghai Girls:

ladiesWhat I want to know is, did someone at Buzzfeed compile these into a collection? Or is this a Getty images collection that they posted up because it started making the internet rounds? They don’t really say. But they do include some color photos! So maybe go check it out?