– Press release
LOS ANGELES — On April 16, the Manzanar Committee, sponsors of the annual Manzanar Pilgrimage since 1969, and the more recent Manzanar At Dusk program, joined the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation (HWMF), the Ad Hoc Committee to Oppose the Sale of Japanese American Historical Artifacts, and many other organizations and individuals in the community, in welcoming the removal of artifacts from the World War II concentration camps in which over 110,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry were unjustly incarcerated from the auction block.
The auction would have featured 450 prisoner craft objects, personal items, art works and heritage artifacts from the camps, which were given to Allen H. Eaton, the original collector, under the assumption that they would be put on exhibit to educate people about the Japanese American Incarceration experience, and not sold.
On April 12, the Manzanar Committee announced its opposition to the auction, calling on Rago Arts and Auctions to put an immediate halt to the auction of these artifacts. After just a few days of organizing and mobilizing, intense pressure on Rago and the consignor of the artifacts helped convince Rago to remove the artifacts from their April 17 auction.
“The HWMF and the many people who have supported us in the last few weeks are thrilled that the immediate risk to the collection has been averted, and we are appreciative of the wider Japanese American community’s concerns,” HMWF Chair Shirley Ann Higuchi said, in a statement. “We now turn to the challenge of securing the future care of the collection and protecting it in collaboration with all concerned Japanese American-related institutions.”
The threat of litigation also factored into Rago Arts and Auction’s decision to remove the artifacts from the auction block.
“Within hours after legal counsel for the HMWF communicated their intent to file a law suit, the Rago Arts and Auction Center announced that the auction items would be withdrawn,” the HMWF said, in a statement.
Like so many other Japanese American community leaders, Manzanar Committee Co-Chair Bruce Embrey welcomed the news.
“We are more than pleased that Rago Arts and Auction has decided to withdraw the artifacts from Friday’s auction, and has responded to the outcry from many, especially those who were unjustly incarcerated during World War II,” he said. “It is indeed perplexing that, in this day and age, some in our country know so little of our recent history that the idea of profiting from the sale of artifacts of this nature would be acceptable.”
Embrey urged caution and vigilance, noting that this struggle is far from over.
“While we salute Rago Arts and Auction for withdrawing the items from auction, we note that the artifacts are not yet in our community’s possession,” Embrey stressed. “We urge Rago Arts and Auction and the consignor to negotiate with the HMWF in good faith to reach a quick, honest, appropriate and just settlement.”
“We would also like to salute the HWMF, the Ad Hoc Committee, other community organizations, and all the individuals who banded together to effect positive change,” Embrey added. “We reiterate that whether it be Native American artifacts, or items from the Holocaust or Slavery, it is simply not acceptable for anyone to profit from the personal treasures or possessions of an oppressed people. The artifacts and possessions must be used to educate broader society about the true nature of America’s concentration camps. This was, in fact, the very reason Allen H. Eaton sought, and was given, these items.”
For more information, or to lend your voice to the cause, check out the Japanese American History NOT FOR SALE page on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/