A Tour of the Japanese American Relocation Center in Rohwer
My colleagues and I traveled to Desha County on Monday, Nov. 5, to visit the Rohwer Japanese American Relocation Center. Tamisha Cheatham, the UALR Institute on Race and Ethnicity program coordinator and a student in the UALR Master of Public History program, invited the institute staff to join her at the site. Cheatham secured a $250,000 grant from the National Park Services last year to help restore the site’s cemetery.
It was bittersweet to see the cemetery still in existence though in disrepair. And seeing the smokestack in the distance that once towered over the buildings constructed to house the internees was surreal. Approximately 60 years ago Americans were forced here, survived the best they could, and left their mark on the Delta soil.
Arkansas State University’s Arkansas Heritage Sites program completed an interpretive project earlier this year that includes an audio tour guide for visitors narrated by actor George Takei, most famous for his role on Star Trek. Takei lived at the Rohwer Relocation Center with his family in 1942.
I think it is important for Arkansans to have a visual reminder about this important time in our history, a time of war – a time when hysteria combined with prejudice denied many citizens their rights.
It is a part of our history- Arkansas, the nation, and our fellow citizens.
Jessica Yamane, an institute intern from the Northeastern University’s School of Law Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project, was glad she got to visit the site before returning to Boston.
Yamane said, “Our trip spoke to me on a personal level about interracial solidarity. I observed the thoughtfulness of my co-workers as we learned about the history of Japanese American incarceration. The fluid ways in which the United States government has criminalized different bodies of color at different times in this nation’s history is frightening, yet it has also provided a foundation for coalition building between people of color based upon our lived experiences.”
The Rohwer site is part of the Arkansas Delta Byways tourism region and is worth a visit. (See Map for Directions)