First lady Eleanor Roosevelt visiting the Japanese Internment Camp on Gila River land near Maricopa.

 

Winston Churchill once said, “history is written by the victors,” alluding to a reality in which often only self-serving histories are memorialized. Despite criticisms over the implications of such a statement, Churchill believed the subjective nature of history tends to bend in favor of a conflict’s winner, sometimes excluding controversy and atrocity.

IF YOU GO
What: Gila River Japanese Internment Camp presentation
When: Feb. 5, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Maricopa Public Library, 41600 W. Smith-Enke Road
Who: Maricopa Historical Society
How Much: Free

One such American story is that of World War II Japanese and German internment camps.

To aid in telling the controversial tale of these camps, one of which happened to be in Maricopa’s backyard, the Maricopa Historical Society is hosting a speaker Monday who will shed light on what many consider to be a dark time in American history.

“[The presentation] focuses on this challenging period in our history when, due to fear and other issues, we lost our way a bit and incarcerated people, two-thirds of which were American citizens, because they looked like the enemy,” said Jody Crago, director of the Chandler Museum.

The political and social atmosphere that spawn this fear of invasion and defeat, Crago said, is relative to today and deserves revisiting.

“If your livelihood or your community seems like it’s being supplanted by some other group, it’s natural to be afraid of what the future holds,” Crago said.  

But in this instance, he said, that fear, whether warranted or not, became so great the government began to extensively deprive citizens of their rights.

The question being, Crago said, “is this important to think about today?”  

Crago’s presentation will also have a secondary component.

He hopes to highlight some of the new improvements at the Chandler Museum including a new “expanded” museum near the Chandler Fashion Center, which, he said, will include exhibits on Japanese internment camps in Arizona.

He also said, soon after the museum is open it will feature an exhibit on Chandler boxing legend Zora Folley, who once challenged Muhammed Ali for the heavyweight title but was defeated.

Crago has more than 25 years working in small museums focusing on community interaction. He co-created ChandlerpediA and is co-founder of the East Valley Cultural Heritage Coalition in Phoenix. He serves on the American Association for State and Local History National Leadership Awards Committee and was president of the Museum Association of Arizona.

His presentation on the Gila River internment camp will be held at the Maricopa Public Library, Feb. 5 at 5:30 p.m.

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