UH Mānoa College of Education (COE) Professor Eileen Tamura delivered the 45th annual Manzanar Pilgrimage keynote speech at the Manzanar National Historic Site in California’s Owens Valley on April 26, 2014. Just a few months before the 50th anniversary of the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964, Tamura’s presentation was designed to educate attendees by addressing a pivotal civil rights issue.
Author of In Defense of Justice: Joseph Kurihara and the Japanese American Struggle for Equality (2013), Tamura spoke to an audience of more than 800, including students from UCLA, Cal State Polytechnic Pomona, Cal State Fullerton, Cal State Long Beach, and UC San Diego. She gave two additional presentations the following day at the historic site and was a guest lecturer at UCLA before returning to Honolulu.
Commemorating the unjust imprisonment of more than 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry, the pilgrimage is attended each year by a diverse group of students, teachers, community members, clergy, former incarcerees, and others. Manzanar was the first of ten American concentration camps established in the most remote and desolate U.S. regions during World War II.
Chair of the COE Department of Educational Foundations, Tamura is a respected historian of the incarceration experience and its impact on the families and communities affected by the camps. “After my keynote, a number of people approached me and recounted what happened to their families and friends who were incarcerated,” she said. “I learned much from what they told me.”
Sponsored by the Manzanar Committee, the pilgrimage also included group discussions, Taiko performances, and interaction with former incarcerees. For information about the program, see the Manzanar Committee website.