The Japanese American Experience in WWII Arkansas

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THE ROSALIE SANTINE GOULD – MABEL JAMISON VOGEL COLLECTION

In 2010, Rosalie Santine Gould of McGehee donated her remarkable collection of artwork and other materials from the World War II-era Japanese American internment camp at Rohwer to the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, a department of the Central Arkansas Library System. There were ten such camps around the country, most in the western United States. Two were in Arkansas, at Jerome and Rohwer. The collection includes several hundred paintings and other works of art produced by U.S. citizens of Japanese descent who were interned during World War II. The art had been created in the camp under the tutelage of high school art teacher Mabel “Jamie” Jamison Vogel, who collected and saved her students’ art in the years following the war. Vogel became a champion of preserving the camp – which was dismantled after the war and essentially vanished – and its story, and she passed the torch to her good friend Rosalie Gould.

 

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HISTORY OF THE ROHWER RELOCATION CENTER

The Rohwer Relocation Center in Desha County was one of two World War II-era incarceration camps built in the state to house Japanese Americans from the West Coast, the other being the Jerome Relocation Center (Chicot and Drew counties). The Rohwer relocation camp cemetery, the only part of the camp that remains, is now a National Historic Landmark. The camp housed, along with the Jerome camp, some 16,000 Japanese Americans from September 18, 1942, to November 30, 1945, and was one of the last of ten such camps nationwide to close. The Japanese American population, of which sixty-four percent were American citizens, had been forcibly removed from the West Coast of America under the doctrine of “military necessity” and incarcerated in ten relocation camps in California and various states west of the Mississippi River. This marked the largest influx of any racial or ethnic group in the state’s history.

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CALS EXHIBITIONS OF CAMP ART

Since receiving the Gould/Vogel Collection in 2011, the Central Arkansas Library System has curated a number of exhibitions highlighting the Rohwer art and telling the story of this little documented event in Arkansas history.

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