In the Archives: Disappeared Children in Argentina and the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo

Author: Kayla Allen, Archives Assistant and graduate student in the History MA Program at UMass Boston

Black-and-white photograph of a large crowd marching in a street

Manifestación [Demonstration]

Photograph of a grandmother and granddaughter embracing

Argentina Rojo de Pérez y Mariana Pérez, found grandchild and Grandmother

Some of the most fascinating material in our digital collections is a series of interviews and other documents relating to Rita Arditti’s work in Argentina. Rita Arditti spent many years conducting interviews with members of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo. These women worked hard (and still work) to advocate for the children and grandchildren that were kidnapped or born captive between 1976 and 1983 during the violent military rule in Argentina. The Grandmothers have worked to create a DNA database so that the children, after being stripped of their identity, can learn who they are even if their family has already passed away. The Grandmothers have also worked with forensic teams and archivists to actively learn more about the kidnappings and captive births, as well as to provide a database for the children to learn more about their families’ histories. A few of the Grandmothers have been reunited with their grandchildren so far, and they hold out hope that more connections will be made.

Black-and-white photo of a street poster of a pregnant woman

‘Embarazada,’ afiche en una calle de Buenos Aires (de la colección de las Abuelas) [‘Pregnant Woman,’ poster in a Buenos Aires street (from the Abuelas’ collection)]

In our collection, we have photographs of the Grandmothers, images from their own photograph collection, interviews and transcripts of the interviews in Spanish, and a fully digitized copy of the Spanish version of Rita Arditti’s book, De por vida: historia de una bu?squeda: las Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo y los nin?os desaparecidos (Searching for Life: The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo and the Disappeared Children of Argentina). We also have videos of Grandmothers Estela Barnes de Carlotto and Rosa Tarlovsky de Roisinblit speaking at events in the United States (with an English translator).

To learn more about the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo and their work, check out our digital collection. You can find the English translation of Searching for Life: The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo and the Disappeared Children of Argentina in the Healey Library and through UMBrella. There’s also an English article written by Rita Arditti on the Wellesley Centers for Women website, and the Grandmothers have their own website. Learn more about Rita Arditti here.

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Digital collection now available: Stephen Lewis poster collection

This gallery contains 3 photos.

University Archives and Special Collections (UASC) in the Joseph P. Healey Library at the University of Massachusetts Boston is pleased to announce that more than 500 activist posters from the Stephen Lewis poster collection, circa 1921-2017 are digitized and available online. UASC has been working with Stephen Lewis to digitize more than 3,000 posters through […]

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“To take the burden off of my soul”: Oral history collection documents Japanese American university students during World War II internment

Gordon Sato on left with interviewer Dr. Paul Watanabe.

Gordon Sato (left) with interviewer Dr. Paul Watanabe, 2011. Gordon was incarcerated at the Manzanar War Relocation Center and attended Central College in Pella, Iowa.

Author: Shay Park, Archives Assistant

You know, we studied civics in high school and when I realized that the government was interning these American citizens and putting them behind barbed wire, I just could not believe it. It was not American, not the United States that I knew. —Esther Nishio, former Pasadena College student and former prisoner at the Granada War Relocation Center

During World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which authorized the removal of anyone living in vaguely defined “military areas.” These areas were largely located on the West Coast, where Japanese immigrants had settled and developed thriving communities since the turn of the twentieth century. These residents were regarded with suspicion by government officials and other Americans as potential threats to the United States solely on the basis of their national origin. Thus, by declaring the West Coast a “military area,” these Japanese and Japanese American residents were deliberately targeted, though not explicitly named, in FDR’s Executive Order (1).

The policy of removal and relocation to internment camps lasted from 1942 to 1945 and imprisoned nearly 120,000 people. The majority of those incarcerated were American citizens and were held without evidence or due process. The evacuations began on March 24, 1942, and internment continued until a 1945 Supreme Court decision ruled the practice unconstitutional. The last camp closed in March 1946 (2).

Alice Takemoto, 2011. Alice was incarcerated at the Santa Anita Assembly Center and Jerome War Relocation Center and attended Oberlin College in Ohio.

The holdings in University Archives and Special Collections in the Healey Library at UMass Boston includes the digital collection “From Confinement to College: Video Oral Histories of Japanese American Students in World War II.” The collection contains video interviews, transcriptions of those interviews, and photographs of the eighteen participants interviewed for the oral history project. All eighteen are Japanese Americans who were relocated to internment camps. The project was carried out by the Institute for Asian American Studies at UMass Boston and the interviews were conducted by Dr. Paul Watanabe in 2010-2011.

The interview subjects describe the living conditions at sites that typically consisted of buildings not intended for human habitation, most often horse stalls in large barns, that offered little privacy or comfort. Unsurprisingly, many of the interviewees describe a “block” or “blank” in their recollections of that time, but some are able and willing to recount aspects of their daily lives, such as the jobs they worked in the camp’s cafeteria or as maintenance workers, or the games and activities they participated in with their families and friends in the camp to pass the time. 

What is remarkable about these former prisoners’ experiences is that they attended college during the period of Japanese internment. They were all roughly aged 16 to 20 at the time of evacuation, and soon after arriving at the camp, it was arranged to have them attend university. This was typically accomplished by several people working together, such as their parents, other acquaintances in the camp, and/or individuals and advocacy groups outside the camp. Several of the interviewees described themselves or their families as having a natural expectation that they would still go to school, despite the unnatural circumstances in which they found themselves.

In order to cover the costs of living and tuition, most of the interviewees became live-in maids or nannies for local families near their new university. These arrangements were also facilitated by others on their behalf. Several of the interviewees cite Quaker groups or organizations like the National Japanese American Student Relocation Council or Friends of the American Way as providing instrumental help through the process of applying, moving, and locating a place to live and work.

Frank Inami, 2011. Frank was incarcerated at the Fresno Assembly Center, Jerome War Relocation Center, and Rohwer War Relocation Center, and attended the University of California, Berkeley.

There were instances when community members learned that an interned Japanese American person would be attending a nearby university and held protests in response. The most notorious incident happened to Esther Nishio, one of the interviewees and the first Japanese American student to attend a California university after internment. Her arrival at Pasadena Junior College was met with harassment and in some cases violence. Esther says in her interview with Dr. Watanabe that she was mostly insulated from the “furor,” but Pasadena community members harassed Esther as well as school officials (3). Other students were forced to change universities before they even arrived because of the uproar their admission caused, or the school rejected their application outright. And even when they were able to attend, in some instances the locals treated them with hostility. 

However, even in cases like Esther’s, many of the interviewees describe a welcoming environment from classmates, teachers, and administrators within the university itself. Esther described her fellow students as “very friendly”: “[T]hey were all so wonderful to me… I met soldiers who had returned from the South Pacific who were attending college and… they couldn’t be nicer. It was just these other people that were causing so much problems.” Most said they were one of very few Japanese American students at their university, but despite that, they felt accepted and even enjoyed their time. “I had no trouble fitting in, really,” said Chiye Tomihiro. “You know, I went to a school in the first place in Portland where, you know, I was a minority to begin with so… it wasn’t something new for me.” Similarly, Francis Fukuhara called his transition into the student population “seamless” and Theodore Ono described the reception as “very kind and warm.”

The interview subjects majored in a variety of fields, ranging from math and science to art and music, and studied at universities throughout the country, such as Oberlin College, the University of Denver, and the University of Missouri. Following the war and their time in school, they went on to live interesting lives as teachers, scientists, artists, and more. Some of the notable figures interviewed for the project are George Matsumoto (1922-2016), a Modernist architect, Gordon H. Sato (1927-2017), a prominent cellular biologist, and Setsuko Nishi (1921-2012), an activist, sociologist, and professor who taught the first Asian American studies courses at City University of New York (CUNY). 


Setsuko Nishi, 2011. Setsuko was incarcerated at the Santa Anita Assembly Center and attended the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

In what is already a strange and contradictory tale—Japanese American students who left imprisonment to attend school in a country that considered them and their families potential enemies of the state—there are more twists: some of interviewees were drafted to fight in the war during their internment, and a few even went on to work in national security. Participant Robert Naka recounts the surprise he felt when he was granted clearance to work on a government contract that involved working on radar detection of bombs. He then went on to become deputy director of the National Reconnaissance Office (a part of the United States Department of Defense) in 1969. Robert remembers a conversation he had with a colleague later about these experiences:

We talked about [my time in the internment camp] and then he said, “Gee, Bob, you went from being a distrusted American to one of the most trusted we have. You ran the National Reconnaissance Office. That was a tightly, tightly held secret of the United States government. And you signed papers to the White House with all these tightly held code word classifications on the letter and it’s truly remarkable.” And he said, “Only in America could such a transition possibly be allowed.” He thought it was incredible and so did I.

“Only in America”—it is a sobering remark on what Robert and the tens of thousands of other prisoners experienced during World War II under the policy of the US government. But Robert, like several of the other interview subjects, chooses to view what he went through with a hopeful lens. When asked by Dr. Watanabe what lessons he would want other to take away from this history, he replies:

Well I can only continue with this notion of “Only in America.” …It’s an amazing arrangement of a democracy where a person has considerable individual freedom and roadblocks occur… but the society is permissive so that you can actually work your way around and through these difficult periods and make contributions to our society.

This hope Robert and others feel based on their ability to persist is joined by a hope rooted in the ability to share their stories. “I don’t know [what] else we can do except tell our stories. …[M]aybe leave a legacy, for the others to follow,” says Rose Yamauchi. She continues, describing about her efforts to write about her experiences in a writing group:

I was unable to talk about it for years. I don’t know why, just, we didn’t talk about it.… Of course we were busy working and trying to build careers and things, but still, it was an experience that maybe we wanted to forget, I don’t know. Anyway, we might still have held a grudge for a long time, I know, because when I started to write the stories, that is the first time I was able to put it on paper or able to talk about it and my friends in the writing group realized that too, that when I first started writing, I couldn’t get up and read the story even. But gradually it’s gotten easier… 

“You know you can tell by the way that a person responds what kind of person they are. It’s amazing,” Rose concludes. “They respond well to it and I, in turn, I am able to take the burden off of my soul and tell the story of my internment and my life.”

The oral histories document a broad range of experiences of internment based on gender, geography, class, and more. To view the video interviews or read the transcripts, visit the collection here. To learn more about Japanese American college students who experienced internment during World War II, see below.


References

1. “FDR orders Japanese Americans into internment camps.” History, https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/fdr-signs-executive-order-9066.

2. “Japanese Internment Camps,” History, https://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/japanese-american-relocation.

3. Mozingo, Joe. “She was a test case for resettling detainees of Japanese descent—and unaware of the risk.” LA Times, 30 November 2019, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2019-11-30/column-one-she-was-a-test-case-for-resettling-detainees-of-japanese-descent-and-unaware-of-the-risk.

Further reading

Articles:

Austin, Allan W. “National Japanese American Student Relocation Council.” Densho Encyclopedia, http://encyclopedia.densho.org/National_Japanese_American_Student_Relocation_Council.

—. “American Friends Service Committee.” Densho Encyclopedia, http://encyclopedia.densho.org/American_Friends_Service_Committee.

Bigalke, Zach. “World War II and the National Japanese American Student Relocation Council.” Blog post. Unbound. The University of Oregon, Special Collections and University Archives, 23 January, 2015, https://blogs.uoregon.edu/scua/2015/01/23/world-war-ii-and-the-national-japanese-american-student-relocation-council.

“Courage and Compassion: Student Biographies.” Oberlin College and Conservatory, https://www.oberlin.edu/courage-and-compassion-student-biographies.

Erlandson, Devin. “The Relocation of Japanese American Students to Wayne University during World War II.” Blog post. Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University, 11 July 2014, http://reuther.wayne.edu/node/11936.

Books:

Austin, Allan W. From Concentration Camp to Campus. University of Illinois Press, 2004. https://umbrella.lib.umb.edu/permalink/f/1951nkk/01MA_UMB_ALMA51217089110003746.

Okihiro, Gary. Storied Lives: Japanese American Students and World War II. University of Washington Press, 1999. https://umbrella.lib.umb.edu/permalink/f/1951nkk/01MA_UMB_ALMA51158086030003746.

Takemoto, Paul Howard. Nisei Memories: My Parents Talk about the War Years. University of Washington Press, 2012.

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AFSC Vietnam Curriculum Project: Children’s drawings depict life in 1960s Vietnam

Author: Alyssa Tkach, Archives Assistant

Children's drawing: two men shake hands with soldiers and a plane in the background

“Tong Thong Di Honolulu (The President Goes to Honolulu),” created by Le hoang Cuong in 1966 in Cholon, Vietnam, 12 x 16 in.

University Archives and Special Collections holds a collection of eighteen children’s drawings that document life in Vietnam in the 1960s. The drawings were made possible by various world peace organizations and activists, including the American Friends Service Committee, the Committee of Responsibility, and Le van Khoa. 

Child's drawing of Batman standing on grass with a building in the background

“Batman,” created by Vo Phuc Hai in 1966 in Cholon, Vietnam, 12 x 16 in.

These drawings were created by Vietnamese children around 1966 as resource materials for the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). The AFSC is a Quaker organization that was formed in 1917 by the Religious Society of Friends in order to aid civilians who were affected by World War I. In the 1960s, they helped build anti-war coalitions to challenge U.S. policy in Vietnam (1). Today, they continue to work to improve racial relations around the globe, advocating for social justice and peace. 

Child's drawing: a house with clouds and a tree

“Canh Nha Que (Country Scene),” created by Nguyen Huu Cuong in 1966 in Thi Nghe, Vietnam, 12 x 16 in.

Le van Khoa is a music composer, photographer, and educator who arrived in the United States from Vietnam in May 1975 as a war refugee (2). He was born to a working-class family on June 10, 1933, in Can-Tho, a city in the Mekong Delta region of southern Vietnam. As a child, Le van Khoa taught himself how to read and play music, which ultimately led him to win an award at age nineteen for two songs he had composed and submitted to a national music contest (2).

Child's drawing: a woman standing and a person rowing a boat

“Chinh Phu (Soldier’s Wife),” created by Vu thi Bich Tram in 1966 in Gia Dinh, Vietnam, 12 x 16 in.

Le van Khoa’s success earned him a job as a host for a children’s television show, World of Children (2). In addition to his passion for music, Le van Khoa is a renowned photographer who co-founded the Artistic Photography Association of Vietnam and published three books (3). The Special Collections and University Archives department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is home to a small collection of his photographs, which focus on life in Vietnam (3). The drawings were submitted to a contest that Le van Khoa sponsored in connection with World of Children, and he later donated the drawings to the Committee of Responsibility in an effort to help raise funds for Vietnam (4). 

Child's drawing: a smiling cat holding an umbrella in the rain

“Con Meo Xach O (Cat With Umbrella),” created by Ta thai Duong in 1966 in Cholon, Vietnam, 12 x 16 in.

The Committee of Responsibility (COR) was formed in 1966 by medical personnel, scientists, religious leaders, and other conscious citizens to assist Vietnamese children under the age of sixteen. The Committee provided medical assistance by bringing children to the United States for various treatments and rehabilitation. Around 100 children were treated by this program, and after completing their treatment, nearly all of them returned to Vietnam (5).

These images range from lighthearted cartoon characters and nature scenes to emotional depictions of soldiers and war. The drawings contextualize the impact of the Vietnam War from a Vietnamese perspective; researchers who study the residual effects of war on civilians and children will find this collection to be particularly valuable.


References and further reading

1. “Vietnam Summer,” American Friends Service Committee, accessed April 23, 2020, https://www.afsc.org/vietnamsummer.

2. “Le Van Khoa Collection,” UMass Amherst Libraries Special Collections and University Archives, accessed April 23, 2020, http://findingaids.library.umass.edu/ead/mums170.

3. “Le Van Khoa Photograph Collection,” UMass Amherst Libraries Special Collections and University Archives, accessed April 23, 2020, http://scua.library.umass.edu/umarmot/vietnam/.

4. “American Friends Service Committee, Vietnam Curriculum Project: children’s drawings and resource materials, 1954-1977, bulk 1963-1976,” UMass Boston Digital Collections, Joseph P. Healey Library, accessed April 23, 2020, https://openarchives.umb.edu/digital/collection/p15774coll8/id/135/rec/1.

5. “Committee of Responsibility Records, 1966-1978,” Swarthmore College Peace Collection, last modified February 9, 2018, https://www.swarthmore.edu/library/peace/DG151-175/DG173COR.htm.

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Collecting and preserving hip-hop history in University Archives & Special Collections at UMass Boston

Members of the hip-hop community fill out paperwork about photographs and items they plan to contribute to the Mass. Memories Road Show.

Volunteers and contributors at “Show ‘Em Whatcha Got” Mass. Memories Road Show: The Hip-Hop Edition.

Well over 200 community members joined us at the Boston Public Library this past Saturday to share photographs, objects, and memories at “Show ‘Em Whatcha Got” Mass. Memories Road Show: The Hip-Hop Edition. In all, we collected about 300 digital images of items ranging from photographs and concert posters to t-shirts and album covers. We also recorded about 60 video interviews with community members throughout the day about their connections to hip-hop in Boston and Massachusetts.

Six people in front of a graffiti painting.

Cindy Diggs (AKA “Mother Hip Hop”), center, with contributors at the Mass. Memories Road Show. Diggs served as Director of Hip-Hop Community Engagement for the event.

It will take University Archives & Special Collections at UMass Boston 2-3 months to fully process this collection and make it available for the world to see at openarchives.umb.edu. Once it’s there all contributors will be notified. [Update: This collection is now online. Read more and view the digital collection here.]

Logo for National Endownment for the Humanities

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations in this program do not necessarily express those of the National Endowment of the Humanities.

This event was supported by a Common Heritage grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the Human Endeavor, as well as support by the UMass President’s Creative Economy Initiatives Fund. It is part of a larger project called “Local Rappers, DJs, B-Boys, and Graff: Documenting the Massachusetts Hip-Hop Community from the 1970s to the present.” Learn more about this project here.

Contribute to the Massachusetts Hip-Hop Archive

In 2016, University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston launched the Massachusetts Hip-Hop Archive with an initial donation by Pacey Foster of recordings from the Lecco’s Lemma radio program. Learn more here and explore the Lecco’s Lemma Collection.

Image lists the kinds of materials we collect: Audio and video recordings (cassettes, videotapes, and film reels); Original photographs, negatives, and slides; Flyers, promotional materials, and unique publications and magazines; Letters, diaries, and other firsthand accountsAs we continue to develop this new collection area, University Archives & Special Collections at UMass Boston is now focusing on donations of original and unique archival materials from musicians, DJs, breakdancers, graffiti artists, producers, promoters, and fans that will help us document the rich heritage and legacy of hip-hop culture in Boston and Massachusetts.

Do you have original and unique materials related to hip-hop in Boston and Massachusetts that you think should become part of the Massachusetts Hip-Hop Archive? Contact an archivist at UMass Boston to learn more.

What’s next: Digitized Massachusetts Rock Against Racism videos online soon

Massachusetts Rock Against Racism (RAR) was co-founded in the Boston area in 1979 at a time when the City of Boston and its surrounding areas were “rocked by racism.” The RAR organizational records are part of University Archives & Special Collections. Learn more and view the finding aid here. We recently completed digitization of approximately 100 videos from the RAR collection and this summer,  thanks to a grant from the UMass President’s Creative Economy Initiatives Fund, we will complete descriptive work on these videos, which include documentary films, outtakes, interviews, and concert footage.

As a sneak peek of what this amazing collection has to offer, embedded below is “Breakin’ Rappin’ Poppin’ and Graffin’: A Rockumentary,” which was filmed at Madison Park High School in Roxbury, Mass., on June 9, 1985. The footage includes performances by a number of artists, as well as a breakdance battle between the Floor Lords and HBO.

Breakin’ Rappin’ Poppin’ and Graffin’: A Rockumentary, Presented by Mass. Rock Against Racism (1985 June 9) from UMass Boston Archives on Vimeo.

The digitized and described Massachusetts Rock Against Racism collection of videos will be available online soon. Keep visiting this site for more information and for updates.

If you have questions about the Massachusetts Hip-Hop Archive, please contact an archivist at UMass Boston or connect with the project on Facebook.


University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston collects materials related to the university’s history, as well as materials that reflect the institution’s urban mission and strong support of community service, notably in collections of records of urban planning, social welfare, social action, alternative movements, community organizations, and local history related to neighboring communities.

University Archives & Special Collections welcomes inquiries from individuals, organizations, and businesses interested in donating materials of an archival nature that that fit within our collecting policy. These include manuscripts, documents, organizational archives, collections of photographs, unique publications, and audio and video media. For more information about donating to University Archives & Special Collections, click here or email library.archives@umb.edu.

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