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Reverend Yamazaki was beaten in camp Jerome

Sugimoto, Henry [ bio ]

Reverend Yamazaki was beaten in camp Jerome
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H: 39.25 in, W: 30.25 in, Frame: 41 x 32 in

Denson, Ark., 1943


Gift of Madeleine Sugimoto and Naomi Tagawa, Japanese American National Museum


Stretched and framed. Gold frame, on stretcher.

To the right, one man, dressed in tan pants, blue shirt, dark blue socks and grey shoes, holds another man, Reverend John Yamasaki, from behind, locking his arms under the Reverend's arms about the shoulders and behind the neck, while another man, on the left, in tan shirt, dark blue pants, striped socks and brown shoes, kicks and punches Yamazaki. He holds a stick in his left hand. The Reverend, dressed in black with white collar and dark brown shoes, has blood on his face and down the front of this clothes, spattering the ground. His jacket is torn. His black hat and eyeglasses lie on the ground to his right. A book with the words "Holy Bible" lies near his feet in the lower right foreground. Above it, there are five lines of Japanese writing. Five lines of poetry in English appears at the bottom foreground (see inscription field). A mess hall and a barracks are in the background.

Signed in medium, bottom left corner: H. Sugimoto, Jerome 1942 Bottom left: "When I received the blow I felt / as my own child hitting me / for they were of my own kind / each blow reminded me of God's will / who taught me of our own lack of suffering."

In 1943 the government mandated the registration of all camp inmates through a questionnaire. The registration served two purposes: to identify those "loyal" to the United States, and to recruit male nisei for service in the military. Some questioned how the government could ask nisei to fight, while denying their civil rights. In addition, Issei, legally barred from becoming naturalized United States citizens, were asked to foreswear allegiance to Japan. Tension mounted as the community wrestled with the question of what constitutes loyalty, At Jerome, this erupted in an attack on Reverend John Yamazaki who translated government documents into Japanese for the non-English speaking population. In the eyes of some, he appeared to be colluding with the government. Sugimoto wrote, "While I did not witness this beating, I read about it in the [camp] newspaper...which also printed the waka [poem] that Reverend Yamazaki composed as a response to the beating. I began to envision the beating as the subject of a documentary painting. When I moved from camp to New York City...I added [the poem to an] empty part of the canvas.": When I received the blow I felt as My own child hitting me, for they Were my own kind-- Each blow reminded me of God's will Who taught me of my own lack of suffering.

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