Stirring posters of captivity, survival, civil rights and more will be on display, starting Thursday as the Harrison County Historical Museum presents “Righting a Wrong: Japanese Americans and World War II” from the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Services (SITES).
“From the first poster to the last, (the exhibit showcases): How can we learn from what we did in the past to influence how we’re going to shape our future?” explained Becky Palmer, executive director of the museum.
Palmer said this is the third Smithsonian event for the museum, but the first poster exhibit.
“Embracing themes that are as relevant today as they were 75 years ago, the exhibition takes a deep look at immigration, prejudice, civil rights, heroism, and what it means to be an American,” the SITES website, www.sites.si.edu, states.
The Open House for the display is set for 3:30 to 6:30 p.m., this Thursday, March 12, in the Mezzanine Gallery of Memorial City Hall.
Admission is free, but donations are accepted.
The exhibition, the newest from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, recaps the era of the Japanese incarceration centers.
“After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and the United States entered a war in Europe and the Pacific, the nation was overcome by shock, anger, and fear—a fear exaggerated by long-standing prejudice against Asians,” SITES notes. “In response, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. This order sent 75,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry and 45,000 Japanese nationals to incarceration centers.”
“Righting a Wrong: Japanese Americans and World War II traces the story of this incarceration and the people who survived it,” the website indicates. “Young and old lived crowded together in hastily built camps, endured poor living conditions, and were under the constant watch of military guards for two and a half years. Meanwhile, brave Japanese American men risked their lives fighting for the United States. Some 40 years later, members of the Japanese American community led the nation to confront the wrong it had done—and urged Congress to make it right.”
Besides the heart-wrenching personal stories, captivating documents and striking photos the poster exhibit brings, the exhibit will showcase the artifacts of Harrison County’s own familiar Japanese figure, George Sachihiko Murata, an oil rig cook and founder of the major pearl rush at Caddo Lake. His ability to cook and lead fishing expeditions made him a favorite of Caddo Parish, La., and Harrison and Marion Counties’ authorities, his bio on findagrave.com reads.
“He’s our local connection,” Palmer said of the exhibit. “They tried to put him into a Japanese internment (camp).
According to a story on his death in the Feb. 21, 1946 edition of The Marshall News Messenger, Murata, who died at age 85, operated a fishing camp on Caddo Lake for decades.
His escapades of pearl diving all started in the summer of 1909 after he found a pearl in a Caddo Lake mussel that he was preparing to use as catfish bait.
“He dove for pearls off of Potter’s Point, and found good ones,” Palmer shared. “He sold them to Tiffany’s (jewelry store in New York), at that time, for $1,500.
“There were two that he sold for big money and made good money,” she said. “Well, as soon as that got out, everybody began pearl diving on Caddo Lake.”
Visitors to the exhibit will learn more about his journey from Japan to the United States, where he eventually settled at Caddo Lake.
“When he was 83, still at Caddo Lake, during World War II, they came for him, for the Japanese internment. And I have the FBI files that will be displayed for this exhibit,” said Palmer.
Caddo Parish deputies and Texas law officers, reportedly under the direction of “Cap” Taylor, Lady Bird Johnson’s father, protected Murata from the federal agents, promising his good behavior, according to his bio on findagrave.com.
He was not a naturalized citizen, although he was once under the impression that this naval service (as a steward and chef to Admiral George Brown) entitled him citizenship, a Feb. 21, 1946 News Messenger article stated.
“These are all those things that will be included in the exhibit because he’s our local connection,” said Palmer, encouraging all to come to the must-see showcase.
The Mezzanine Gallery is sponsored by the Jonesville Foundation, a family foundation established by Patricia Vaughan.
The historical museum’s permanent Service & Sacrifice exhibit, Places of the Heart and current Smithsonian exhibit are all free for viewing at Memorial City Hall. Donations are encouraged.