“While I was complaining to God about all the things I can no longer do because of my advancing age and declining health, His response to my woeful lament was, ‘You can write!’” [Maybe so, I just hope I can keep it up!]
“Jimmy, don’t quit writing. . . . Stay busy.
You have a talent that few men are blessed with.”
—Fran Howell Pearson, a member of Mari’s high school Clique,
in a personal email after my last post of updates and tidbits
In my previous post titled “Fall Updates and Tidbits” I began with some opening quotes about my writing and continued with updates and tidbits about several subjects related to the Arkansas Delta.
In this follow-up post to that one I examine several related subjects such as: a new nonfiction book about the youth who were confined in the WWII Japanese-American incarceration camps in Southeast Arkansas; an update from Gayle Harper on the Delta signings of her book about her voyages on the Mississippi River; and additional material about the history of cotton and cotton production.
In my next post, a second-part follow-up to this one, I will discuss other nonrelated subjects such as Elvis Presley, Elizabeth Taylor, Halloween and All Saints’ Day, etc.
Note: To enlarge the photos, click on each one individually.
Article on Book about Japanese-American Youth
in WWII Incarceration Camps in Arkansas
“During World War II, thousands of Japanese American youth and their families
were uprooted and sent to camps in Arkansas
where they were left to ponder their fate.”
—“Japanese youth describe life behind barbed wire,”
McGehee Times, October 21, 2015
As indicated by the quote above, on October 21, the McGehee Times published a review of a new nonfiction book about the Japanese-American youth who were confined along with their families in the two SEARK WWII incarceration camps.
In the past I have published several posts about the incarceration camps and their detainees including a post about the opening of the WWII Japanese-American Internment Museum in my hometown of McGehee; follow-up posts on visits to the museum and the site of the former camps by some of the surviving Japanese-American detainees; two novels about fictional youthful characters who experienced the effects of the camps personally from both inside and outside the camps; a nonfiction documentary about the camps and the fate of those Japanese-Americans who elected to remain behind in Arkansas after the camps were closed, etc.
Now it is my pleasure to offer excerpts from a recent review of a new nonfiction book about the young people in those camps.
During World War II, thousands of Japanese American youth and their families were uprooted and sent to camps in Arkansas where they were left to ponder their fate.
The story of how these young people coped with their years in Arkansas is now available in a new book—A Captive Audience: Voices of Japanese American Youth in World War II Arkansas—just published by Butler Center Books.
Using archival primary material such as photographs, yearbooks, artwork, and first-person written accounts, A Captive Audience gives an inside look at the experiences of young people in the Rohwer and Jerome Relocation Centers in Arkansas. . . .
Intended for young-adult readers (while also appealing to adults), the book explores important dimensions of Arkansas and U.S. history, including what it means to be an American. . . .
The book is available at the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, Central Arkansas Library System, 100 Rock Street, Little Rock, Arkansas 72201; or from the Butler Web site at www.butlercenter.org; from other bookstores; from online retailers (such as Amazon.com); and from the University of Arkansas Press (via University of Chicago Press) at (800) 621-2736.
To learn more about this book and other Butler Center books, visit the Butler Center Books Web site at: www.butlercenter.org/publication.
Personal Note on Japanese-American
Incarceration Camps in Southeast Arkansas
“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing
some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”
—Hebrews 13:2 NIV
“May the people of Arkansas keep in beauty and reverence forever
the ground where our bodies sleep.”
—Inscription in Japanese on monument in Rohwer Memorial Cemetery,
as quoted in A Captive Audience, p. 107
At the beginning of the preceding section I wrote about the numerous blog posts that I have published about different aspects of the WWII Japanese-American incarceration camps; novels about the camp and its detainees; documentary films about the camps and some of the Japanese-Americans who elected to remain behind in Arkansas after the camps were closed, etc.
As such, one might wonder why I have dedicated so much time, energy, and space to the subject of the camps and those forced to occupy them.
Beside my natural interest in these subjects, as a native of Southeast Arkansas and an avid amateur cultural and geographical historian, there is another more personal connection between me and the camp residents.
Back in the mid-seventies, after a long absence from our beloved homeland, my family and I were back living in our hometown of McGehee, Arkansas, about twelve miles from the Rohwer Japanese-American Incarceration Camp and Rohwer Memorial Cemetery.
At that time, some forty years ago, there was much less interest shown by the media or many Arkansans, even in Southeast Arkansas, in regard to the camps and those who had inhabited them some thirty years earlier.
As such, one Sunday afternoon, my wife Marion and I decided to take our two young sons for a drive out to the camp site to acquaint our boys with the camp and the history it represented. We assumed that would probably be the only time in their lives that the boys would ever experience the camp site personally. Nor did we expect our future grandchildren to ever have a personal encounter with the camp and cemetery—sadly, both assumptions being totally accurate. Regrettably, we also have never revisited the camp and cemetery site, nor do we expect ever to be able to do so, due to our advancing age and declining health.
That day, just as we were driving up over the railroad tracks onto the gravel road that led into the camp, we met another car with a middle-aged couple in it. The woman was obviously Japanese-American.
Rolling down our windows we began to become acquainted and to share information about each other, such as the fact that we were local residents and they were from Chicago, Illinois.
It turned out that the reason the couple had driven so far to visit the camp and cemetery that Sunday afternoon was because the Japanese-American woman had been a resident of the camp when she was young—perhaps as a child or perhaps as a teenager, as portrayed in the book A Captive Audience.
The sad part was that we learned that the woman’s mother had died while incarcerated in the camp and was buried in the cemetery there. The woman was in tears because she said that she and her husband would probably never have another chance to visit the site and cemetery and that she had no one there to take care of her mother’s grave.
It was only after we had parted and gone our separate ways that my wife and I began to realize that we had not offered to take care of the grave site for that grieving Japanese-American woman, a weekly task that would have cost us very little in time, money, or effort.
Sadly, we also realized that we had not exchanged names and addresses or phone numbers with our visitors.
Although we searched intently for information about them, we were never successful in locating them to offer them our meager services, albeit belated.
Ever since that time forty years ago, Mari and I have felt that we failed in our duty to fully “show hospitality to strangers” or to “keep in beauty and reverence forever the ground where [their] bodies sleep.”
So although I can never offer the service needed by that Japanese-American woman and her late mother, perhaps now my blog posts about the camps, their residents, and the vestiges they have left behind—including in this case members of their own families—will be at least symbolic of our unexpressed but continuing interest, care, and concern.
We hope so.
Note: To learn more about the preservation of the graves of the Japanese-Americans buried at the Rohwer Memorial Cemetery, there is a brief video titled “Meet the Locals of the Japanese-American Internment Museum in McGehee,” which mentions this subject. To view it, click on the title or on the actual URL in the Sources section at the end of this post. The two locals who narrate the video are Susan Gallion, curator of the Japanese American Internment Museum in McGehee, and Rosalie Santine Gould, former mayor of McGehee, both of whom have been instrumental in preserving the camp’s history and artifacts.
Latest Update of Gayle Harper’s Delta Signing of Her Book
about Her Voyage down the Mississippi River
“Thanks, Jimmy –
You just keep on keepin’ on!”
—Gayle Harper about my continued writing
about her and her book despite my poor health
In my last post I included a section on Gayle Harper’s book about her 90-day voyage down the Mississippi River and some of the recent awards she and the book have received.
In this post I include a follow-up on her more recent book signings, including those in St. Louis and her hometown of Springfield, Missouri.
Afterward, Gayle offered this information about her book signings in the Delta:
Then, its back to the Delta—to the land of hot tamales, fried green tomatoes and soulful music! Here are the events that are open to the public:
Monday, November 9th 10:00 a.m. Indianola, Mississippi—Sunflower County Library
Monday, November 9th 5:30 p.m. Indianola, MS—B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center
Tuesday, November 10th 6:00 p.m. Helena, Arkansas—Delta Cultural Center to be held at Beth El Heritage Hall Auditorium
Gayle closes her update with these remarks:
Remember…there is a book trailer you can watch right here www.gayleharper.com
and you can order your signed and personalized copies of Roadtrip with a Raindrop.
Start your Holiday shopping early!
Follow on Facebook for lots of news www.facebook.com/GayleHarper.MississippiRiver
Or for more information, simply go to Gayle’s Web site at: www.gayleharper.com
Follow-Up about Cotton Bales and Modules,
Harvesting, and Ginning
“Thanks to their [cotton laborers’] often ill-paid efforts,
about 98 percent of all garments
sold in the United States today are made abroad.”
—Southeast Arkansas native Taylor Prewitt
in his review of Sven Beckert’s book Empire of Cotton: A Global Industry
In my previous post titled “Fall Updates and Tidbits” I used words and photos to examine the decline and virtual disappearance of cotton and its production in the Arkansas Delta.
In this post I offer a follow-up on that subject.
It is based primarily on a query I sent recently to Taylor Prewitt, a native of Southeast Arkansas whose family has been involved in cotton farming for generations.
The query I sent to Taylor on October 24 was about the differences in the old traditional square cotton bales we often still associate with cotton harvesting, versus the new huge round bales or modules produced by modern multi-row mechanical cotton pickers, and the ultra-modern oblong modules of cotton covered with a yellow tarp that are now seen alongside harvested cotton fields.
Taylor’s response to my query was that he did not have first-hand knowledge of the new round bales but noted that it does take four round bales to make a modern square bale.
For more information Taylor provided a link to an article from Cotton Incorporated about the history of modules:
To learn more about the multi-row mechanical pickers and those round, yellow-wrapped cotton bales or modules, visit my earlier post titled “‘Gone Are the Days:’ Updates on the McGehee Estate, Cotton Picking, Dogtrot House, and ‘Designing Women.’” To view a brief video titled “Cotton Harvest, Pickens, Arkansas,” featuring the massive mechanical cotton pickers in action producing the modern round bales or modules, click on the title.
Then Taylor Prewitt added: “I took some pictures of our cotton harvest a few weeks ago, and I’ll send some of them in another email.”
Concluding his personal response to me, Taylor wrote: “I read a fascinating book about cotton this summer, and I’m attaching my review I wrote of it.”
In regard to Taylor’s review of that book, here is his introduction to it:
Any history of cotton is likely to be disturbing to a boy whose father and grandfather raised cotton, and who still rents the family land for cotton farming. And though Sven Beckert’s Empire of Cotton: A Global History (Alfred A. Knopf, 2014) may not be surprising, it is disturbing. It puts the American cotton farmer in his place. . . .
If American cotton is inconsequential in the world market . . . the driving force in today’s world cotton market . . . [are] a few . . . giant corporate retailers that pull rather than push the world’s cotton traffic. . . Those who pick the cotton in the fields and work in the mills receive poverty-level pay for their efforts. . . . Thanks to their often ill-paid efforts, about 98 percent of all garments sold in the United States today are made abroad. . . .
Later, Taylor began to insert some verbatim quotations from the book emphasizing some of the crucial changes in cotton production from the past, and some of the negatives of modern cotton production of which most Americans are not aware:
Yet while a century ago your shirt would likely have been sewn in a shop in New York or Chicago, using fabric spun and woven in New England, from bolls grown in the American South, today it is probably made of cotton grown in China, India, Uzbekistan, or Senegal, spun and woven in China, Turkey, or Pakistan, and then manufactured in a place like Bangladesh or Vietnam. . . .
Using his own farm as an example of the changes that have come to cotton production Taylor noted:
Our farm is one of the few in our area that can still plant cotton, because most of the farmers have sold their pickers, for about a hundred thousand dollars apiece, to be broken down and shipped to China. (A new picker costs about eight hundred thousand dollars and produces its own bales, bypassing the production of modules to be hauled to the gin to be made into bales.)
Mechanical pickers are not even mentioned in this exhaustive 443-page book, printed in 2014. Cheap foreign labor can produce cotton . . . so much more cheaply that mechanical pickers are as irrelevant as is the rest of the American system of growing cotton.
I think the fact that most of the world’s cotton is picked by hand, and that China is just now beginning to buy our used cotton pickers, says a lot. Also the fact that American cotton farmers who have sold their pickers to China for $100,000 can’t get back into cotton farming without spending $850,000 for a big new picker.
To learn more about the book or to purchase a copy of it, visit Amazon.com at:
As a fitting illustration and conclusion to this segment on the demise of cotton production in the Arkansas Delta and the close of the 2015 Delta cotton harvesting and ginning season, here are three old photos from days gone by of picking, weighing, and loading cotton near McGehee, Arkansas. They were sent by Patsy McDermott Scavo on October 25 and labeled “Photos from McGehee Times Archives that Dwane [Powell, a McGehee native] rescued from the garbage!”
On a lighter and more recent note, here is a photo Patsy Mc sent to me recently with the caption: “Ginger bread Christmas Delta house for a competition in Memphis.”
Also, here are some closing season photos of current cotton picking and ginning in Southeast Arkansas sent to me by Patsy Mc on October 26 with her personal note:
Lakeport Plantation posted photos on Facebook today. It was the last day of ginning this year at the Epstein gin in Lake Village, Arkansas. The Epstein gin has been ginning cotton since 1917.
“In 1862, British merchant John Benjamin Smith boasted that the manufacture of cotton yarn and cloth had become ‘the greatest industry that ever had or could by possibility have ever existed in any age or country.’”
—Glenn C. Altschuler, “Book Review:
“Empire of Cotton: A Global Industry,”
Tulsa World Online, January 25, 2015
In addition to Taylor Prewitt’s review of the book Empire of Cotton: A Global Review, in an earlier post I referred to the Tulsa World Online review of the same book about cotton production and worldwide changes in it, especially in Arkansas.
That earlier post was written by Glenn C. Altschuler.
According to Altschuler, the book, written by Sven Beckert, shows how the cotton industry shaped the world. Interesting, despite the decline and virtual disappearance of the once predominant Cotton Kingdom in the Arkansas Delta, it is claimed in the article that “worldwide cotton production is expected to triple or quadruple by 2050.”
To read this second informative review of this book about the history and future of cotton production that appeared in my earlier post titled “Delta Addenda, Etc., Part I,” click on the title of the post or the URL in the Sources section.
Finally, as a closing word on this segment of the post about cotton and its dwindling production and seemingly imminent demise, here are two photos from Joe Dempsey’s “Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind” blog post published on November 2. The rather dismal photos are of Southeast Arkansas cotton fields after they have been harvested by modern mechanical cotton pickers.
Joe’s original caption for this photo read: “This once ‘white unto harvest’ cotton field is now stubble. Next spring the cycle will start again.”
Joe’s original caption for this photo was: “Not all cotton lint is picked up by the mechanical picker. What’s left will nourish the next crop. This is somewhat exaggerated since it is at the end of a row.”
Note Joe’s incisive captions about the sadness of these virtually denuded fields left to lie fallow until a new crop will be sown later—but perhaps that crop will not be cotton!
The quotation, excerpts, and publication information on the new nonfiction book, A Captive Audience, about the Japanese-American youth confined in the WWII Japanese-American incarceration camps in Southeast Arkansas, were taken from an article titled “Japanese youth describe life behind barbed wire,” published in the McGehee Times on October 21, 2015, and used with permission.
The photo of the cover of the book A Captive Audience: Voices of Japanese American Youth in World War II Arkansas was taken from Amazon.com which features another online review of the book with other information about the book and how to order it online:
The photos of the WWII Japanese-American Internment Museum in McGehee, Arkansas, and the group of Japanese-American former detainees who visited McGehee were taken from the McGehee Times and used with permission.
The photos of the Rohwer Memorial Cemetery sign and the Rohwer Memorial Cemetery on the camp grounds were taken from the McGehee Times and used with permission.
The video titled “Meet the Locals of the Japanese American Internment Museum in McGehee,” was composed by the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. The link to it was sent to me by Patsy McDermott Scavo on November 7, 2015. It can be accessed at:
The three photos of Gayle Harper’s book Roadtrip with a Raindrop; the city of St. Louis, Missouri; and the cotton boll, along with information about her signing of the book in the Mississippi River Delta, were taken from an email update sent by Gayle on October 29.
The photos of the three different types of cotton bales and modules were sent to me by a Southeast Arkansas native whose name I no longer recall.
The online article about the history of cotton modules that Taylor Prewitt mentioned can be accessed at:
The scanned photo of the decorated round cotton bales titled “Cotton makes a statement” was taken from the October 28, 2015, issue of the McGehee Times.
My earlier post titled “Gone Are the Days: Updates on the McGehee Estate, Cotton Picking, Dogtrot Houses, and ‘Designing Women’” about multi-row mechanical cotton pickers can be accessed at:
The video of multi-row cotton pickers in action producing the round yellow-wrapped bales or modules can be accessed at:
The photos of Taylor Prewitt’s Southeast Arkansas cotton harvest in 2015 were sent to me by Taylor on October 24 along with his personal remarks about cotton production and his review of the book Empire of Cotton: A Global History by Sven Beckert.
The cover photo and the excerpts from the book Empire of Cotton: A Global History by Sven Beckert were taken from Amazon.com at:
The review of the book Empire of Cotton: A Global History by Sven Beckert from my earlier post titled “Delta Addenda, Etc., Part I” can be accessed at:
The three photos from days gone by of cotton picking, weighing, and loading in McGehee, Arkansas, were sent to me on October 25 by Patsy McDermott Scavo and attributed to McGehee native Dwane Powell who “rescued them from the garbage” at the McGehee Times.
The photo of the ginger bread Christmas Delta house was sent to me by Patsy McDermott Scavo from an unknown source.
The photos of the final ginning for the 1915 season at the Epstein gin in Lake Village, Arkansas, as featured on Facebook by the Lakeport Plantation, were sent to me by Patsy McDermott Scavo in an email on October 26.
The second review of this book Empire of Cotton: A Global History was written by Glenn C. Altschuler and appeared in Tulsa World Online on January 25, 2015. It also appeared in my earlier post titled “Delta Addenda, Etc., Part I,” on March 5, 2015, and can be accessed at:
The photos of the harvested cotton fields in Southeast Arkansas at the end of the 2015 season were taken from Joe Dempsey’s “Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind” blog post published on November 2, 2015 and titled “The Underbelly of Fall.” That post can be accessed at: