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ASU receives Japanese American confinement sites grant


Arkansas State University’s Arkansas Heritage Sites Program has received a grant for $93,155 from the Department of Interior, National Park Service (NPS) through the Japanese American Confinement Sites (JACS) grant program.  The grant will complete Phase II of an interpretive project at the Rohwer Relocation Center in Desha County, Southeast Arkansas.

NPS awarded 24 JACS grants for 2011, totaling $2.9 million, to private nonprofit organizations; educational institutions; state, local, and tribal governments; and other public entities to preserve and interpret U.S. confinement sites where Japanese Americans were detained during World War II.  

The Rohwer site was one of only 10 such relocation centers in the United States, mostly in western states, and one of two in Arkansas, the other being at Jerome.  During 2010, Arkansas State University received a grant of $100,502 through the JACS program to develop and implement Phase I of an interpretive plan for the site.

“Today, there is little remaining evidence of the center at Rohwer, other than the National Historic Landmark Cemetery and a smokestack near the original hospital grounds,” noted Dr. Ruth Hawkins, director of Arkansas Heritage Sites at ASU.  “Looking at the expanse of cotton fields, it is hard to imagine that during World War II this center interned more than 8,000 Japanese Americans.”

The Phase II grant builds on previous efforts of Arkansas State University and its partners in the region by designing, producing and installing interpretive panels at the site, along with developing directional signage, an audio-tour, and a brochure. 

“Visiting this site serves as a thought-provoking reminder of how fear and insecurity can dramatically affect people’s lives,” Dr. Hawkins said.  “It is a harsh lesson that should not be forgotten or repeated.”

For more information on this project, contact Dr. Hawkins, Arkansas Heritage Sites Program, at 870-972-2803. For questions regarding the JACS grant program, contact Kara Miyagishima, program manager, Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program, NPS, at 303-969-2885.

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