Hansen’s ‘Barbed Voices’ Explores Resistance in the Camps

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Before Manzanar inmate Harry Ueno passed away, he gave Prof. Arthur A. Hansen a sealed envelope.

The content of the envelope was to be disclosed at a later date that Hansen deemed appropriate.

Hansen has now considered this the appropriate time.

Ueno was not only at the center of the December 1942 Manzanar rebellion but has also been accused of allegedly beating Fred Tayama, a Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) leader, but Ueno’s involvement in the Tayama beating was only rumors. To date, no one has publicly given a confession, and no one has explained why Tayama had been targeted.

What Ueno divulged to Hansen years ago is now revealed in “Barbed Voices: Oral History, Resistance, and the World War II Japanese American Social Disaster,” which is a collection of Hansen’s best essays.

Some may discredit Ueno’s revelation as merely one person’s ramblings since there is no institutional documentation, but this is exactly why all eight of Hansen’s essays in “Barbed Voices” are critical at this time when we are losing so many former camp inmates to death that their voices are being replaced by too much reliance on government documents.

Arthur Hansen

In his essays, Hansen makes the case for the importance of oral history interviews by comparing how an investigative reporter must rely on both documents and in-person interviews to get to the truth.

(When reading Ueno’s last statement, it is also important to see Appendixes A, B, and C. Read also the illuminating interview with Ueno by Hansen, June 17, 2000, O.H. 1518.3, Japanese American Project, Center for Oral and Public History, California State University, Fullerton.)

In addition to what occurred at Manzanar, Hansen analyzes other forms of resistance that occurred in the different World War II camps.

For the Gila River War Relocation Authority camp in Arizona, Hansen dissects a New Year’s gathering, while for Heart Mountain in Wyoming, he details the history of the Heart Mountain Congress of American Citizens, a precursor to the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee.

Hansen included “social disaster” in the book’s subtitle to recognize the psychological impact of trauma that affects each person differently, sometimes in extreme ways. These reactions can be seen in the essays that focus on Ben Kuroki, an aerial gunner in the U.S. Army Air Force, and journalist Jimmie Omura.

Hansen will be speaking on “Barbed Voices” on Sunday, Oct. 28, at 2 p.m., at The Tattered Cover Bookstore, 1628 16th St. in Denver, Colo.; (303) 436-1070. One of four same-named outlets, this Tattered Cover Bookstore for the event is situated in lower downtown Denver (Historic Lo-Do).

It is co-sponsored by the University Press of Colorado, Stanford University Press, and the Japanese American Resource Center of Colorado. The event will feature both “Barbed Voices” (University Press of Colorado) and “Nisei Naysayer: The Memoir of Militant Japanese American Journalist Jimmie Omura” (Stanford University Press), edited by Hansen.

For those who are unable to make it to Colorado, Hansen will be speaking on Saturday, Dec. 15, at the Manzanar National Historic Site.

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