The United States of America’s response to the attack on Pearl Harbor was to force interment on Japanese-American citizens. The internment camp in Louisiana was named Camp Livingston and was located in Alexandria.
February 27, at 11:00 a.m. Southeastern Louisiana University Dr. Samantha Perez discussed Japanese Interment in Camp Livingston, Louisiana as a part of the Louisiana and World War II lecture series.
Dr. Samantha Perez and the History and Political Science Department at SELU are working are tailoring there lectures to correspond with the Louisiana and World War II traveling exhibit. Dr. Perez focus is on Italian Renaissance but discovered a hobby in Japanese history due to her main focus. She took interest in Japanese history by learning about Renaissance Italy’s, “cross cultural contact and sense of other.”
Dr. Perez began her lecture explaining the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants (called Issei). Issei began to migrate to southwest Louisiana in order to use their experience in rice farming. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s Japanese-American citizens developed a community that was generally accepted into the community. In 1941, two journalist of Japanese decent, Larry and Guyo Tajiri visited New Orleans and were treated well and were surprised to see the prejudice of African Americans. The Louisiana community considered the Japanese “white enough” and therefore Japanese Americans were spared the racism of that time until after the events of Pearl Harbor.
United States post Pearl Harbor radically changed its opinion of the Japanese. Dr. Perez states, “…Camp Livingston had been functioning as a military camp and training facility since 1940 before it received its first group of incoming internees on June 8, 1942. At its peak, the camp detained just over 1,100 Japanese, along with other detained citizens of German or Italian heritage.”
The relationship between internees and camp soldiers were typically diplomatic. Internes were allowed to write and call home along with athletic activities. However, disputes began over internee labor. Internees rarely if ever received pay that was deserved Internees reluctantly complied out of fear as camp soldiers turned machine guns into the camp in order to strike fear into the internees.
The internment facility of Camp Livingston ended in 1945, along with the war. Dr. Perez states, “In Louisiana, life after the war slowly returned to normal, tensions easing, and like most areas across the South, racial concerns soon focused on African American experience on the eve of the Civil Rights movement than the Japanese.” The later decades of the 1950’s and 1960’s saw trade with Japan grow, immigrants move to New Orleans, and Louisiana growing past the idea of Japanese Americans as a threat.