This year marks the 75th anniversary of a dark chapter in American history, when 120,000 Japanese Americans from Alaska and western United States were imprisoned during World War Two. Families from Petersburg, Juneau and around Alaska were rounded up and moved to camps in the Lower 48 for several years. Some returned to their homes after the war. More than four decades later, our government apologized to the remaining victims and paid restitution.
A group in Juneau in 2014 dedicated a sculpture of an empty chair. It memorializes the chair set out and left empty for John Tanaka at a Juneau graduation ceremony in April of 1942. In 2016, Juneau author Karleen Grummett published a book called “Quiet Defiance: Alaska’s Empty Chair Story” telling of the Japanese American community in Juneau, their experience in the camps and Juneau’s efforts to recognize the injustice. Joe Viechnicki spoke with Grummett about her research and the Empty Chair Project.
The Petersburg Public Library has a display up about the Empty Chair Project along with a wooden boat carved by Tom Kito of Petersburg during his incarceration in New Mexico. Grummett will be speaking at the library Wednesday, October 4 at 6 p.m.