Foundations for Writing

A St. Cloud State Site for English 191

September 15, 2019
by Judith Kilborn

on the 56 anniversary of the terrorist bombing at the 16th Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, AL

In memory of the bombing….

September 3, 2019
by Judith Kilborn

Kevin M. Kruse’s on Medgar Evers historical timeline

August 30, 2019
by Judith Kilborn

A rural Arkansas town confronts its buried history of mass killings of black Americans

This is the lead in The Guardian’s article entitled “Arkansas: tree honoring 1919 Elaine Massacre victims cut down”:

Officials are investigating after someone cut down a willow tree that was planted earlier this year to honor the victims of the 1919 Elaine Massacre in eastern Arkansas.

The willow was planted in April in remembrance of the victims of the massacre, one of the largest racial mass killings in US history.

It occurred during the summer of 1919, when hundreds of African Americans died across the country, at the hands of white mob violence during what came to be known as the “Red Summer”.

If you don’t know about this massacre, The Washington Post provides more historical details in its article entitled “A massacre of blacks haunted this Arkansas city. Then a memorial tree was cut down” (  Here’s a quote that summarizes the extent of the massacre.

For days, mobs of white men killed at least 200 black people, with assistance from about 500 troops called on by Arkansas Gov. Charles Brough. Some scholars estimate the number to be closer to 800 killed.

August 27, 2019
by Judith Kilborn

Learning about Japanese American internment camps

I don’t usually post reflections in this blog; however, the St. Cloud Times’ article about the Smithsonian exhibit on Japanese Americans that I blogged about the other day got me to thinking about a personal memory—as has the continuing crisis at our southern border and the forced incarceration of immigrants.

When I was a freshman in high school, I needed to write a research paper and couldn’t come up with a topic. My history teacher suggested that I write about the Japanese internment camps populated after Pearl Harbor or about the Nisei (ethnic Japanese born in America to Japanese-born immigrants, Issei). I went home and asked my dad if he knew anything about this. He responded by going to get a book he owned that I’d never seen before—Yankee Samurai: The Secret Role of Nisei in America’s Pacific Victory—and showing me a picture of his best friend, Jerry (Jiro) Katayama, who was a decorated Nisei who served in Military Intelligence in Leyte (an island in the Phillipines) and Okinawa during World War II while his family was incarcerated in a Japanese internment camp in California. His family lost everything.

I knew Jerry really well: he played golf with my dad, ate dinner at our house often, and fell asleep on the couch watching TV with my dad. And I didn’t know anything about this aspect of his personal history or about the internment camps. It wasn’t in any of the history books. And although I don’t remember much about writing my paper, I remember that I was really angry when I wrote the paper and for some time after—not only angry that this had happened to Jerry and his family and in our country, but also angry that our history books didn’t talk at all about this. This is the first time I realized that history could be selective and that our country did things that were, to put it politely, wrong.

I do remember talking to my dad at that time about Jerry’s personal and military history. My dad was really proud of Jerry, who had given him the book and had, as a good friend, talked a lot about his experience. (My brother Bob also talked with Jerry about it after he finished his military service.) But I didn’t talk to Jerry about this: I was young and felt it was too private.

I have my own copy of the book with Jerry’s picture and have also found that Jerry (Jiro) is included in the Japanese American Service Committee (now JASC)’s Legacy Center Archives, where I found this picture and other images and documents about Jerry (

The group, located in Chicago, helped with resettling Japanese Americans after the war and has continued to preserve historical material from the Japanese American community in the area, making it available for research and educational activities. They also seek “to preserve and promote community heritage and common understanding of the Japanese American experience as an integral part of American history.”

Other groups and individuals clearly do this too; for instance, this history is the focus of the Smithsonian exhibit. As another example, George Takai talks a lot (on Twitter) about his family’s experience incarcerated in camps—in fact, has a recently published graphic novel about it—They Called Us Enemy—and also has responded frequently to current government actions on immigration, including that recent announcement that they planned to use a Japanese internment camp to house immigrants detained at the Mexican border. (This didn’t happen since the public uproar was really loud.) However, not everyone is so forthcoming about their own experiences. For instance, Roy Saigo, who was SCSU president from 2000-2007, wouldn’t talk about being incarcerated as a Japanese American when he was very young (5 or so). In fact, when I heard about this background, I was going to ask him about it and tell him about Jerry and was advised by several people in Administration not to do either.

I apologize for writing such a long posting. But last year I saw a map of relocation centers housing the immigrant children taken from their parents, and one of them is in Bartlett, IL, where my brother Jim lives. And a few weeks ago when my nephew moved from California to Texas with his wife and two children — all blondes, he reported that he was stopped in a long line by Homeland Security at the border between Southern California and Arizona and again at the border between Arizona and Texas. The ramifications of these government actions are more far reaching than is perhaps apparent.

In any case, I’d recommend going to see the Smithsonian exhibit at the Stearns History Museum if you can.

August 25, 2019
by Judith Kilborn

Why a Smithsonian exhibit on Japanese-Americans and World War II is coming to Stearns

The article title appearing on today’s St. Cloud Times is “Smithsonian exhibit details an ‘injustice’: Display tells stories of Japanese Americans’ Internment,” and the lead describes the personal history of Sally Sudo, now an Edina resident.

ST. CLOUD —  Sally Sudo was among hundreds of thousands of Japanese Americans and Japanese nationals incarcerated in U.S. internment camps during World War II.

At six years old, Sudo and her family were forcibly removed from their home in Seattle and incarcerated until Aug. 18, 1945. The 83-year-old Edina resident spent first, second and third grade in an internment camp.

The Stearns History Museum is showcasing stories like hers by hosting “Righting a Wrong: Japanese Americans and World War II.”

The traveling Smithsonian Institution exhibit opens Sept. 3 with images, personal stories and objects from people incarcerated at internment camps. The museum will also include local exhibits from the era.

One image of the traveling exhibit shows the Mochida family, wearing identification tags,
as they wait for a bus. The family was forced to leave their nursery and greenhouse
operation in Eden, California in May 1942. (Photo: Dorothea Lange, Courtesy of National Archives)

I encourage you to visit this local exhibit, which will be in St. Cloud from September 3rd-January 5th. The cost for adults is $7.

The article also reports on Japanese Americans who were removed from camps and brought  to Minnesota to Camp Savage, which “was chosen as the Japanese language training facility for U.S. troops in World War II.” Many (and their relatives) “in Stearns County stayed in the area because their relatives came in the service during World War II. ”

This story has reminded me of Jerry (Jiro) Katayama, my father’s best friend. Jerry was a decorated Nisei (second generation Japanese American) who served in Military Intelligence in Leyte (an island in the Phillipines) and Okinawa during World War II while his family was incarcerated in a Japanese internment camp in California. His family lost everything. I’ve been thinking a lot about Jerry recently as immigrants at our southern borders have been incarcerated in camps (and one Japanese internment camp was almost used to house these immigrants). George Takei has also talked a lot about the internment recently too, linking it to current treatment of immigrants. Takei’s graphic novel memoir, They Called Us Enemy, tells the story of his family’s incarceration after Pearl Harbor and their experiences after the camps closed.

August 24, 2019
by Judith Kilborn

Pitts on U.S. racial history articles

Leonard Pitts, Jr., who writes a regular opinion column for the Miami Herald, tweeted about two published pieces yesterday — one his own piece and the other an interesting New York Times’ piece. Here are both tweets, which include links to the articles. Pitts’ columns are always interesting, thoughtful reading, and he tackles difficult stuff. Kevin Kruse, the author of the Time’s article, is an historian who specializes in modern American political history (from the Civil War forward) and is among a group of very active historians on Twitter (

August 22, 2019
by Judith Kilborn

The 1619 project

The Washington Post begins “The 1619 Project and the far-right fear of history” with this lead:

In the summer of 1619, two warships manned by English privateers raided a Portuguese vessel the pirates hoped was brimming with gold. Instead, they found and divided up an altogether different cargo:  some 350 African slaves, taken in bondage possibly from what is now Angola. What happened to all those poor souls may never be known — they were among the early wave of the more than 12 million Africans sent across the Atlantic to live and die in slavery in the New World.

But we do know that, in August of that year, the English privateers appeared not far from the colony of Jamestown, in modern-day Virginia, and bartered 20 to 30 of these Africans for food from the English settlers there. That transaction 400 years ago marked the first landfall of black people on the shores of what would become the United States.

If you haven’t heard of the 1619 project, the project emerged on the occasion of the 400th anniversary arrival of slavery in America via privateers in Jamestown. The Washington Post lauds this “ambitious series of reported essays published in a special issue of the New York Times magazine this past weekend. The ‘1619 Project’ takes this arrival as a seminal event with which to reframe the history of the United States. It charts how — from prison systems to land laws, the origins of capitalism to the evolution of the American diet — there’s little that defines the United States that doesn’t somehow have the legacy of slavery at its foundation.”

You can check out this article, which links to lots of supporting material, including the New York Times magazine article, at

August 22, 2019
by Judith Kilborn

“The Hopefulness and Hopelessness of 1619”

The Atlantic explores the historical significance of 1619  in “The Hopefulness and Hopelessness of 1619: Marking the 400-year African American struggle to survive and to be free of racism” (  Here’s the lead for the article:

Her name was Angela, one of the first known Africans in British North America.

His name was John, the first known antiblack racist in colonial America.

In 1619, this black woman and white man—what they embody—arrived months apart in 12-year-old Virginia, the first of the 13 British colonies that became the United States. Angela was the original embodiment of enslavement, of survival, of the 400-year African American struggle to survive, to be free of racism. John was the original embodiment of elite white male power, of the democracy of racists, of its 400-year struggle to survive, to be free of anti-racism.

The article also begins with this image and in the image source information reflects upon the use of the image in the fight to abolish slavery in the 18th century.

The unattributed oil painting titled ‘Am I not a Man and a Brother’ that was used in the 18th century as a symbol during the fight to abolish slavery is displayed at the Wilberforce House Museum in Hull, Britain, July 4, 2019. The painting is based on an 1787 anti-slavery design produced by British potter Josiah Wedgwood. The widely available image was reproduced on a range of items, including plates, bowls, hat pins and snuff boxes. August 2019 marks 400 years since the slave trade to North America began. Picture taken July 4, 2019. REUTERS/Russell Boyce NO ARCHIVES NO RESALES – RC1C349723C0

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