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From Camps and to Campus

The aftermath of December 7, 1941 changed the lives of countless people and still echo around us to this day.   It had special impact on the Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants living in the U.S.

Records at the General Commission on Archives and History  document those times.  The records show the church involved in ministry in a variety of ways.

 After the United States entered World War II, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942. As a result of the executive order over one hundred thousand Japanese-Americans and Japanese immigrants were interned at various camps located around the United States. Among all of the turmoil of that event were college-age students and those about to enter college. What were they to do?                     
A variety of grassroot groups attempted to deal with the challenge of assisting Japanese American students to continue their college education. Most of these sprang up in early 1942. One group based in California, the Student Relocation Committee, was successful in setting the pattern on how to deal with all of the institutional challenges of getting the students to college. In late April and early May of 1942, the government created the National Japanese American Student Relocation Council to oversee the program. The American Friends gave leadership to that Council.  The Methodists, along with other denominations and groups, were asked to be involved. The Methodists, represented by staff from the Board of Education, Home Missions and Women’s Division, met in Chicago in November of 1942 to organize their part in the program.   

The Council, and its supporting institutions, gathered funds, found supporters, and made connections with schools on behalf of students across the country.  The records of the General Board of Higher Education or Ordained Ministry tell the story of this ministry of our church.  The church’s committee, working with the National Japanese American Student Relocation Council, helped sponsor and place many students to college during the War years. It is a story only partially told.

Below you will see chosen documents that describe the criteria for selecting students, correspondence between schools, students and supporters, and ways in which students were able to attend their schools.   The program lasted until 1948; if a student enrolled in college in the Fall of 1944 many appeared to receive support for the full four years.  Click on any of the images below for a closer read.

The Methodist Plan - from the report of the committee that met in Chicago, November 1942. Their general principles had been suggested by the National Council and was followed by most other denominations.  







Application letters written from the camp.  This letter was written in August in 1943. The student was at the Tulelake camp.   The student was initiating the application process.






Thank-you letters from students        







Here a student has received news that she had been awarded financial assistance and will be able to attend school. She was living at one of the camps.   Note how she has emphasized her joy.  And the same student later sent a Christmas card to the committee members. One wonders how many administrative committees get such cards today?




Making sure funds were coming.  (Some things never change!)



This student's travel was from Idaho to Winfield, Kansas to attend Southwestern College. Other parts of the letter dealt with upcoming tuition fees.  In many cases letters with concerns or good news crossed paths in the mail. Communication was by mail at a time when the telephone was still a rariety in many parts of the country, especially outside the major cities.

In an era when some institutions and communities were hesitant to accept Japanese American students, these records show that many more institutions were willing and ready to assist.  Working within the constraints of a world at war these committed members of the church were able to assist some in their educational goals.  A small thing perhaps, but still part of our ministry.