In Their Own Words: Densho and Japanese Americans making oral history

Join us on Saturday, July 23, at 1 p.m. for a conversation with Densho’s executive director Tom Ikeda, Michael Shiosaki of Seattle Parks and Recreation, and author Daniel James Brown about writing Facing the Mountain and the importance of oral histories in revealing a legacy of resilience and courage. The event will include a book signing with the author, with books available for purchase in partnership with Elliott Bay Book Company. Check out this list of further reading and resources around the Internment in our library catalog, and see past Shelf Talk posts on this topic here.

If you aren’t familiar with the local nonprofit organization Densho: The Japanese American Legacy Project, come learn about the incredible work they do collecting and preserving the legacy of Japanese Americans unjustly relocated and incarcerated during World War II. And if you are familiar with Densho, take a second look, because there is so much more to discover, including a podcast, interactive maps, digitized documents from the 1940s and beyond, and over 900 oral histories recorded to date—all available online. The incredible depth, breadth, and accessibility of these sources make books like Facing the Mountain: An Inspiring Story of Japanese American Patriots in World War II , by Daniel James Brown possible.

Densho’s work chronicles events leading up to and the 80 years since the spring of 1942, when the United States passed Executive Order 9066 to forcibly remove and incarcerate “all persons of Japanese ancestry, including aliens and non-aliens” from “military zones” on the West Coast. Some 120,000 residents of Japanese ancestry, many from Western Washington, were incarcerated in camps across the United States. Entire families, from infants to elders, were taken from their homes and livelihoods, forced to live in poor conditions with no freedom to come or go. Some people, like young University of Washington student Gordon Hirabayashi, objected to being incarcerated; he refused to board a bus and was taken to King County jail to await legal action that would end up spanning years as he and others challenged Order 9066’s legality. An additional 1,500 Japanese American and Hawaiian men were drafted or volunteered to fight in World War II, such as the all-volunteer 442nd Regimental Combat Team, even as their families were imprisoned by the country they fought for. Continue reading “In Their Own Words: Densho and Japanese Americans making oral history”

New Additions to our Northwest Photograph Collection

We’ve just wrapped up the addition of more than 800 historic images to our Northwest Photograph Collection thanks to grant funding from Washington State Library and Institute of Museum and Library Services. The collection now includes over 1300 photographs from Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Alaska.

The newly added photos include views of :

Group in regalia at Lummi Stommish Water Festival, 1949

  • The 1949 Lummi Stommish Water Festival. The celebration started near Bellingham in 1946 with activities including canoe races, salmon bakes, dancing and the selection of a festival princess.

Gov. Ernest Lister and admirals at Bremerton dry dock, 1913

  • Governor Ernest Lister and his family. Lister served as governor of Washington from 1913 to 1919, leading the state through the influenza epidemic and World War I. Lister died of heart disease while in office in 1919, shortly after many of these photos were taken.

Continue reading “New Additions to our Northwest Photograph Collection”

Watch ‘The Legacy of the Soul Pole,’ Converge Media’s New Film

The Soul Pole has stood tall outside The Seattle Public Library’s Douglass-Truth Branch for almost 50 years. Now, the 21-foot tall artwork – which the Black Heritage Society of Washington State has called a “beacon of Black pride” in the Central District – is starring in a short documentary produced by Seattle’s Converge Media.

In the 10-minute film titled “The Legacy of the Soul Pole,” Converge Media, a leading producer of culturally relevant content in Seattle and across the Pacific Northwest, follows the Soul Pole over a one-year period starting in April 2021. At that time, the artwork was deinstalled from its historic spot at 23rd and East Yesler Way in Seattle’s Central District, because of concerns over deterioration. It was reinstalled in April 2022 after successfully undergoing conservation work.

The film will be promoted today, June 14, on the Converge programs “The Day With Trae” at 11 a.m. and “Truth With Proof” at 11 p.m.

“For us at Converge Media, documenting the story of the Soul Pole was a labor of love,” said Omari Salisbury, founder of Converge Media, in the press release. “Converge Media was born in the Central District of Seattle and many of us on staff including myself grew up going to Douglass-Truth as children and we remember how mighty the Soul Pole was and the story it represents: To be front and center through this amazing process to yes, restore the Pole, but more than that, to reaffirm that the Central District is still the cultural and historical epicenter for Black culture in the City of Seattle and beyond. We want people to know that this film was not commissioned by The Seattle Public Library or any other funding source. We were able to tell this very important Black history story with assistance from the generous supporters of Converge Media, who believe in the value of community storytelling and uplifting of the Black experience in Seattle and to them I say thank you and we offer you the ‘Legacy of the Soul Pole.’”

“We are grateful to Converge for creating an extraordinary film that sheds light on the Soul Pole’s past, present and future, and to the Black Heritage Society for their support in the research and preservation of these stories,” said Tom Fay, Chief Librarian of The Seattle Public Library. “Everyone who has an interest in the untold stories of Seattle should watch this film, and then go visit the Soul Pole at the Douglass-Truth Branch, where it stands tall once again.”

“The Soul Pole represents the tenacity and significance of the African-American footprint in the Central District. This is a beacon on this corner and I’m so proud to see it back,” said Stephanie Johnson-Toliver, president of the Black Heritage Society of Washington State, at the artwork’s reinstallation on April 5, 2022, a moving moment that is included in the film. “I’m kind of fighting back the tears.”

Continue reading “Watch ‘The Legacy of the Soul Pole,’ Converge Media’s New Film”

June 2022 Author Events: Quintard Taylor, Judy Heumann, Ottessa Moshfegh and More

The Library is bringing in June with amazing author evens. Learn about the history of Seattle’s Black community, hear poems inspired by video games and AI, meet the authors of one of the most talked-about comics of 2020, listen to award-winning fantasy authors, hear the story of leading disability rights activist Judy Heumann and more.

Registration is required for both in-person and online attendance; check the event description at spl.org/Calendar for registration and links. All events are free and open to the public.

Breakpoint coverThe Language of Machines: Asian Voices on New Poetics From Tech, Robotics and Video Games – online

Saturday, June 4, 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.  Poets Neil Aitken (“Baggage’s Dream”), Betsy Aoki (“Breakpoint”), and Margaret Rhee (“Love, Robot”), share insights about crafting award-winning poems from programming languages, video games, AI and robotics. This event is presented in partnership with Open Books: A Poetry Emporium and supported by The Seattle Public Library Foundation, author series sponsors the Gary and Connie Kunis Foundation, Open Books and Seattle City of Literature.

The Forging of a Black Community coverQuintard Taylor Discusses “The Forging of a Black Community” Central Library and online

Tuesday, June 7, 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Celebrate the release of the second edition of this seminal work by the Scott and Dorothy Bullitt Professor of American History and professor emeritus at the University of Washington. With a new foreword and afterword, “The Forging of a Black Community” is essential to understanding the history and present of the largest Black community in the Pacific Northwest. The author will appear in conversation with Dr. Quin’Nita Cobbins-Modica. This event is presented in partnership with the Northwest African American Museum, Elliott Bay Book Company, and University of Washington Press, and is supported by The Seattle Public Library Foundation and the Gary and Connie Kunis Foundation.

Continue reading “June 2022 Author Events: Quintard Taylor, Judy Heumann, Ottessa Moshfegh and More”

The Soul Pole Standing Tall Again at the Douglass-Truth Branch

Soul Pole being lifted up before being restalled On Tuesday morning, April 5, a small crowd of neighbors, Library staff and journalists gathered outside the Douglass-Truth Branch to see a very welcome event: A forklift lowering the carefully wrapped 21-foot tall Soul Pole artwork into its base on the lawn of the Library.

Soul Pole close-up
A close-up of the Soul Pole as it’s being lowered into its base

The Soul Pole standing tall again at the Douglass-Truth Branch
The Soul Pole standing tall again at the Douglass-Truth Branch

The Soul Pole has stood tall in that base since 1973, minus the last year, when it was temporarily taken down for conservation work. It was returning home.

By 1 p.m., the workers from Artech Fine Art Services finished unwrapping the Soul Pole and bolting it into its base.

At 2 p.m., under mostly blue skies, the Library hosted a short program to honor the Soul Pole’s history and conservation work, featuring speakers with deep connections to the Central District community and the history and significance of the Soul Pole.

Watch the whole program below or at SeattleChannel.org.

Chief Librarian Tom Fay presented welcoming remarks, noting how grateful the Library was to see the Soul Pole standing tall again at 23rd and Yesler. Continue reading “The Soul Pole Standing Tall Again at the Douglass-Truth Branch”