MCGEHEE, Ark. — The McGehee Industrial Foundation announces the opening of the WWII Japanese American Internment Museum on Tuesday, April 16, with actor/activist George Takei as special guest.
It will house the exhibit “Against Their Will,” interpreting the history during World War II when the Japanese American population was moved from the West Coast to ten internment camps across the country, forced to leave behind their homes and jobs.
Two of those camps, Jerome and Rohwer, were located in southeast Arkansas. They were home to more than 17,000 Japanese Americans.
Takei, best known for his role as Sulu on “Star Trek,” moved with his family to the Rohwer camp when he was 5. They were later sent to the Tule Lake camp in California. He wrote about these experiences in his autobiography, “To the Stars.” Currently, he is working on a musical about the internment, “Allegiance,” which premiered last year in San Diego and is going to Broadway.
Last summer, wayside signage was installed at the memorial cemetery at Rohwer, with audio by Takei.
Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe has also been invited to speak at the dedication.
Former McGehee mayor Rosalie S. Gould began a dream of embracing this history more than 30 years ago. Her friendships with returning former internees enhanced the awareness of this dark time in American history. Her vast collection of art, documents and memorabilia was donated to the Butler Center (Little Rock) in 2010.
The museum is located in the south end of the historic railroad depot, 100 S. Railroad St., downtown McGehee. Landscaping was designed by the McGehee Beautification Committee. It will be open to visitors at no cost Tuesdays through Saturdays. For more information, call (870) 222-9168.
The schedule for April 16 is as follows: dedication at 1 p.m.; reception at 1:45 p.m.; museum open from 1:45 to 3 p.m.; dedication of signage at Rohwer memorial site at 3:30 p.m.