Organized Panel Session
This panel explores how liberal Protestant activists and returning Japan missionaries of the American foreign missionary movement responded to the unprecedented crisis between Japan and the United States following the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack. The outbreak of the Pacific War is typically seen as a watershed moment after which both nations engaged each other in a “war without mercy,” culminating in the fateful atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. During the war, however, a small yet significant minority of missionary-connected individuals and peace activists in the U.S. advocated for the cause of racial justice and humane treatment for Japanese Americans. Mostly forgotten in the mainstream historiography, these activists, many of whom were former women missionaries in Japan, were in fact continuing in a decades-long struggle against anti-Asian prejudice in the United States—a movement that received renewed impetus from President Roosevelt’s decision to authorize the internment of Japanese Americans in 1942. Enjoying the strategic advantage of being among the few Americans with first-hand knowledge of Asia, these missionary-turned-activists used their expert knowledge by volunteering in Japanese American internment camps and becoming advocates for the civil rights of internees. Such actions in turn reflected a longer history of coalition building between Japanese and American Christians on the U.S. West Coast, dating back to the turn of the twentieth century. Through a number of case studies, this panel examines how the factors of race, gender, and religion informed their largely unheralded prewar and wartime activities.