Jean Mishima Shares Her Story with Junior Class

Parker’s junior class welcomed Chicago Japanese American Historical Society President Jean Mishima to speak on campus. Mishima, who was introduced to Parker through Yuki Solomon, mother of junior Judah, spoke about her experience as a Japanese internment camp survivor and as a Japanese American.

Mishima began by describing the history of Japanese immigration to America and some of the challenges immigrants faced dealing with discrimination and anti-immigration legislation. She related that when she was six years old, she and her family were forced to leave their home in California and relocate to an incarceration camp 600 miles away in Gila River, Arizona. Mishima was placed at the Manzanar War Relocation Center where 11,070 people were incarcerated between 1942 and 1945. She shared in vivid detail her experience growing up in this camp, from where her family slept to where they ate, learned and bathed. She then discussed life after World War II, the repercussions of trying to reestablish a life and discrimination she’s experienced into current times. Upper School History teacher Andrew Bigelow said, “Her story ties into our immigration unit in US History. It was an awesome opportunity to hear a firsthand account of the history of Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans in our nation’s history from the mid-1800s to today. It also ties into our study of WWII and the impact it had on Japanese Americans on the homefront.”

Bigelow added, “She was wonderful and really resonated with the kids, who asked many questions. It was great to hear about the Japanese experience right here in Chicago. Most Japanese immigrants and Americans originally lived at Clark and Division and, over time, have moved to Hyde Park, Skokie and Evanston.”

Parker is extremely grateful to Mishima for sharing such an emotional and personal history with students. While these juniors may have learned information from books, being able to listen to and speak with a firsthand, primary source is an experience that highlights the very real people who were forced to live through the events they are studying in their textbooks.

Click here for photos from this visit.
Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.