Sunday, April 1, 2012

The 1940 Census and Tule Lake racism

A new data trove, the 1940 Census, goes online tomorrow. That's from right before so many U.S. people, especially Japanese Americans, were moved. Eerie to think of reading through the households on Bainbridge Island or Terminal Island or in the large Japantown of tiny Florin outside Sacramento.

Another thing I want to look up: birthplaces of people in the counties around Tule Lake in 1940, just before some 18,000 Japanese Americans were incarcerated there.

It's remarkable, knowing what an ugly reception Japanese Americans got at Tule Lake, to find that xenophobia in the same part of far northeastern California and south-central Oregon did not include immigrants from other countries that were at war with the United States.

What I know on the subject now is mainly from the 1941 History of Klamath County. People living at Tule Lake, in what's now California, are surrounded by mountains and volcanic badlands on three sides, so they have pretty much always looked northward for affinities, toward what's now Klamath County, Oregon. Any history of Klamath County necessarily tells a lot about the Tule Lake Basin.

The 1941 History pretty clearly expressed a self-image agreed upon by the area's economic leaders. Its principal author was a pioneer descendant in high local standing, Rachel Applegate Good. And it expressed no particular objection to Germans or Italians. In the "biographical" section of the history -- farmed out to a "Special Staff of Writers" and presumably meant to improve sales of the book -- we have respectful profiles of prominent citizens like these:

Builder Angelo Andrew Doveri: "Despite the handicap of being born in a foreign country, Angelo Andrew Doveri has made good in the country of his choice and has steadily added to his finances until he has reached a position of affluence. He was born in Corredo, Italy..."

John Dominick Boito, grocer: "Typical of what a poor immigrant boy may accomplish in the United States is the prominent standing in business circles that John Dominick Boito has attained in Klamath County. Born on January 7, 1900, near Venice, Italy..."

Charles Henry Flackus, grain farmer and small-scale cattle rancher: "It is to the German born citizens of Klamath County that much credit is due for the development of some of the finest ranches and these men and women are among the very best citizens who believe in progress along agricultural lines, in social activities and in education for their offspring. An example of this citizenry is found in Charles Henry Flackus of the Yonna Valley near Dairy, Oregon..."

Right there, Page 362, no kidding.

The very next year, dispossessed Japanese American farmers, ranchers, grocers, builders and many others, immigrants and citizens, were dispossessed and behind barbed wire on a dusty flat some 30 miles south of Klamath Falls.

Strange old world.

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