At a Little Rock, Ark., gallery yesterday, Frances Kaji looked at artwork made by children at the Rowher, Ark., internment camp that housed Japanese Americans in the early 1940s.

Conference on WWII
internment camps opens

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. » Colorful paintings created by children 60 years ago to depict life in Arkansas' World War II Japanese-American internment camps welcomed hundreds of former camp detainees and their families to Little Rock yesterday for the start of a four-day conference devoted to the long-neglected history of the camps.

Returning to Arkansas six decades after the war was an emotional experience for some and an educational experience for others.

For Marian Takagi of Honolulu, it was a chance to share with her daughter the journey her family was forced to take from Hawaii to southeastern Arkansas after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

The night of Dec. 7, 1941, Takagi watched as her father, a sugar plantation worker, was arrested at the family's Hawaii home and led away to a detention center. A year later, Ta-kagi, her mother and six siblings were forced to leave Hawaii by a boat bound for California and then put on a train that took them to an internment camp in Arkansas.

It was Takagi's first time on the mainland.

"We were told our father was at Jerome, Ark., and we had 48 hours to join him," she said yesterday, standing in the University of Arkansas-Little Rock gallery where the artwork done by children at the camps -- depicting everything from their arrival in Arkansas by train to basketball games and dances -- was displayed.

Takagi's sister, also from Hawaii, her daughter from California and another relative from Japan all traveled to Arkansas to attend the Life Interrupted National Conference. They are among the more than 1,300 camp survivors, family members, historians and others who have registered for the event, which was sponsored by the Little Rock-based Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and the Japanese-American National Museum.

More than 120,000 Japanese Americans were sent from the West Coast and Hawaii to 10 internment camps at the onset of the World War II. Eight camps were in the West; the Arkansas sites were the only ones in the South. Between 1942 and 1945, the two southeastern Arkansas camps at Jerome and Rohwer held 16,000 detainees.

While the camps in the West have long been the subject of books, documentaries and historical preservation efforts, the Arkansas conference marks the first time a large-scale effort has been made to tell the story of the Jerome and Rohwer camps.

The idea for the conference and the exhibits came when a board member of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation sent foundation director Sybil Jordan Hampton a note card decorated with reproductions of drawings done by children in the Arkansas camps.

Life Interrupted National Conference


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