October 16, 2002
Whitworth Alumna Documents WWII Civil Rights Violations As Part of Japanese-American Relocation Archive Project
Rose Sliger, an English major who graduated from Whitworth in 2002, is collecting narratives and conducting research for an archive project, "Spokane's Japanese Americans During World War II: the Lives of Those Who Avoided the Camps," for Whitworth's Weyerhaeuser Center for Christian Faith and Learning.
"Most significant is the timeliness of this project," Sliger says, in reference to the recent controversy over the arrest, detention, and alleged denial of 5th, 6th and 7th amendment rights to people of Arab descent in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Several Japanese Americans have told Sliger about Japanese men who were arrested the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, simply because they were leaders in the Japanese community or were successful businessmen.
"This project identifies how easily civil rights have been denied to people in the United States during a time of war," Sliger says.
The archive project is funded through the Washington Civil Liberties Public Education Program, which is part of the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. The mission of the education program is to promote awareness of civil rights violations.
"The archive project has supplied human faces and living testimony to bring alive what I have read in textbooks," Sliger says. "I think if we make an effort to teach people how important historic events affected individuals in personal ways, then people can relate to those events more easily and can help prevent future violations of civil rights."
Recruited by Whitworth archivist Janet Hauck and politics and history professor and Weyerhaeuser Center Director Dale Soden, Sliger is gathering oral histories from Japanese Americans who relocated from western Washington, Oregon, California, and Alaska to the Inland Northwest to avoid internment during World War II. Many of the people Sliger is interviewing were students at Whitworth, Gonzaga University, and Washington State University during WWII and thus avoided internment.
Beginning in 1942, the United States government forcibly removed more than 120,000 Japanese Americans from their homes, and placed the majority in 10 concentration camps located in the western interior of the United States. Nearly two thirds of this group were U.S. citizens, many of whom sold their homes and businesses at a great loss while others lost everything they owned without compensation.
Segments of Sliger's interviews will be compiled into a set of CD-ROMs and distributed to Spokane public schools with a booklet containing background information, biographies and suggestions for how teachers can use the material in their classes.
The testimonies Sliger is collecting supports the Weyerhaeuser Center for Christian Faith and Learning's efforts to research and document Pacific Northwest history.
"The archive project supports the Weyehaeuser Center's goal to collect and archive primary-source materials in order to promote research on topics related to the Pacific Northwest," Hauck says. "Our archival materials have mainly included manuscript collections, but lately we have begun to focus more on gathering oral histories from Whitworth alumni and others in the Inland Northwest. The oral histories that Rose is now gathering will be a valuable addition to our collections."
While working on this project, Sliger has realized that history can be experienced outside of the classroom. "It has led me to think that I would like to keep working in the field of public history," she says.
During her senior year at Whitworth, Sliger was one of three undergraduates invited to read their work at the Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association Conference's only undergraduate paper session, sponsored by Sigma Tau Delta, an English honor society. Sliger was also awarded the English Department's Lewis F. Archer award, given each year to one or more outstanding senior English majors, as well as the President's Cup, Whitworth's highest academic honor, given to graduates who maintain a 4.0 grade point average throughout their undergraduate studies. Sliger plans to attend graduate school in 2003 to study English or history.
Janet Hauck, archivist, Weyerhaeuser Center for Christian Faith and Learning, Whitworth College. (509) 777-4751 or firstname.lastname@example.org.