College of Arts and Sciences
Doctor of Philosophy in History (PhD)
Internment, Concentration camp, Japanese, Agriculture, World War II, Racism, Hawaii, Food for Freedom, Fear
Agriculture | History
March, Brandon James, "Fear, Racism, Agriculture: The Drive for Japanese Internment" (2024). Doctoral Dissertations and Projects. 5198.
The focus of this dissertation is the timing of the forced evacuation of the ethnic Japanese population from the West Coast in 1942. This work focuses on three key factors driving the timing of the evacuation: racism, security concerns, and agriculture. Racism has been studied and written about extensively; however, an overview of this factor is critical as it directly influenced the removal of Japanese American citizens in addition to Japanese immigrants. This dissertation will focus on the intellectual origins of racism and prejudice by focusing on key figures and tracing the ideas and beliefs and how they influenced the laws that directly affected the ethnic Japanese and their removal. Security concerns for the West Coast stem from the actions of Japan after WWI when they expanded their territory virtually unchecked throughout the South Pacific. The violent nature of this expansion was front-page news in every major city in the United States for two decades before WWII. These actions by Japan fed the West Coast security concerns and fear of a potential fifth column living among the citizens on the West Coast. The final straw was the attack on Pearl Harbor; this act by the Japanese brought to the forefront the fear, racism, and intolerance that had been building on the West Coast since the late 1800s. This dissertation takes all of these factors into account and focuses on the timing of the evacuation as it pertains to the spring growing season in 1942. The ethnic Japanese were deliberately evacuated during the spring growing season so their absence would not hinder the crop production of their farms and allow enough time for the Farm Security Administration, Wartime Civilian Control Administration, and the Department of Agriculture to find replacement farmers before the spring harvest. The Department of Agriculture fully implemented the Food for Freedom program months before the attack on Pearl Harbor, and this program, run by the Department of Agriculture, dictated the amount and type of crops each farm in America needed to produce. These assignments aimed to fulfill the Lend Lease obligations of the U.S. to its European allies and feed America. The Japanese farmers on the West Coast commanded a strong presence and contribution to the food supply. Although the total farms owned and operated by ethnic Japanese farmers numbered less than 7,000, they contributed over 50% of specific crops and almost 100% of others to local markets throughout the state. Due to the need for food production and the Japanese influence and contribution to the local food supply, the evacuation timing was explicitly built around the spring growing season to eliminate any potential for lost crops grown on Japanese farms.