Inside America's Concentration Camps: Two Centuries of Internment and Torture

Inside America's Concentration Camps: Two Centuries of Internment and Torture

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by James L. Dickerson
     
 

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Xenophobia, paranoia, and racism have long challenged democracy, a battle played out dramatically in the concentration camps that were built, staffed, and filled with adults and children under the orders of the U.S. government. Beginning in the nineteenth century with the imprisonment of Native Americans, camps reappeared during World War II with the roundup of

Overview

Xenophobia, paranoia, and racism have long challenged democracy, a battle played out dramatically in the concentration camps that were built, staffed, and filled with adults and children under the orders of the U.S. government. Beginning in the nineteenth century with the imprisonment of Native Americans, camps reappeared during World War II with the roundup of Japanese Americans, German Americans, Italian Americans, and Jews fleeing Nazi Germany. They resurfaced recently when Homeland Security awarded a major contract to a subsidiary of Halliburton for the construction of new camps.

            In Inside America's Concentration Camps, author James L. Dickerson explores the history and the tragedy of the camps in a vivid narrative that brings the stories of the victims and the flaws of our government to life. Rebecca Neugin, Eleanor Berg, Roy Abbey, Marino Sichi, Louise Ogawa—these are some of the children and adults whose stories are found here, along with accounts of the U.S. government yanking children out of orphanages to imprison them in the camps.

            To fight the erosion of democracy, Americans must remain aware of threats to our democratic ideals and understand where we have been. Inside America's Concentration Camps is an authoritative history, a heartbreaking and inspirational story of survival, and a call to action. 

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
While most Americans are familiar with the history of Japanese internment camps during WWII, few know the extent of America's racially-motivated internment. Dickerson seeks to offer readers a comprehensive history of American concentration camps and internment facilities but, while the book purports to cover two centuries of internment and abuse, it really only investigates WWII and the Trail of Tears. Dickerson highlights American abuse against native populations, and touches upon wartime internment not just of Japanese, but also of Jews, Italians, and Germans. His research includes a great number of heartbreaking stories; from Jewish immigrants who escaped the Nazis only to end up in American camps thanks to the low wartime immigration quotas, to Japanese orphans living on subsistence rations, these personal tales throw a vague chapter of the historical record into sharp relief. With economy and insight, Dickerson presents yesterday as a lesson for today and takes a close look at Guantanamo Bay and modern race relations between America and the Arab world. Readers unfamiliar with this history will likely be moved. (Aug.)
From the Publisher

"James Dickerson has opened long-closed doors to detail our nation's shameful reliance on concentration camp justice in time of war and internal division. This book should be required reading in every American high school and college—and for every President."  —Hodding Carter III, author, journalist, educator, and former U.S. assistant secretary of state for public affairs

"Points us to a future where fear and failed political leadership continue plans for concentration camps, continue to threaten individual liberties, and allow bad things to happen to good people; stories until now related only by those who had suffered from behind the razor wire fences."  —Mayumi Nakazawa, author, Yuri: The Life and Times of Yuri Kochiyama

"James Dickerson is ringing out a warning—the light that we see at the end of the tunnel has turned out to be a train after all. A train which, if not stopped, will take away our freedom, our way of life, and finally us."  —Steve Gardner, author, Rambling Mind

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781556528064
Publisher:
Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
Publication date:
08/01/2010
Pages:
312
Sales rank:
809,763
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

Inside America's Concentration Camps

Two Centuries of Internment and Torture


By James Dickerson

Chicago Review Press Incorporated

Copyright © 2010 James L. Dickerson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-56976-748-1



CHAPTER 1

THE ORIGINS OF INTERNMENT IN COLONIAL AMERICA


Scotsmen began immigrating to America only four years before John Turner was exiled to the colonies. By the time of his arrival more than seven hundred Scots had settled in a colony in New Jersey. Perhaps because of his nightmarish experiences in Scotland, Turner found life in a colony under British control not to his liking, primarily because of the fierce violence inflicted on Native Americans and the subsequent retribution inflicted on the settlers by the Indians. He traveled north into the New York wilderness and found work with a rowdy band of trappers who worked the forest north into Canada, where they gathered pelts that they sold to the colonists.

For five years, John traveled with the trappers throughout New York and across the St. Lawrence River into Quebec. It was on the St. Lawrence that he met explorer Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, who told him about a paradise he had discovered on Lake Michigan, near what is now called South Bend, Indiana. In 1693, after skirmishes with the Indians in northern New York and with English soldiers who demanded his valuable trappers' pelts, John left the trappers and headed south to Maryland, a territory known for its tolerance of Presbyterians.

Living among the settlers were several tribes of Algonquin Indians, including the Conoy (also called the Piscataway), a tribe that lived on the banks of the Potomac River on land that is now Washington, D.C. They were unique in that they were the only tribe in the colonies that allowed women to serve as chiefs. A peace-loving people, they traded with the settlers and responded well to teachings about Christianity. When they went to war, it was with Indian tribes to the south, not the settlers.

The Conoy were distinguished by black hair, dark eyes, and copper skin. They were taller than the colonists, even the women, and they had stronger builds than the whites. They wore their hair long, often pulled back into locks and tied with strings of shells. Many of the men shaved their hair from half of their heads. Some of the women had colored designs on their bodies that indicated whether they were single or members of the tribal leadership council. In the summer, men and women dressed in deerskin wraps that left their chests exposed; in winter they wore long cloaks, leggings, and well-insulated moccasins.

Soon after his arrival John witnessed a ceremony during which the leader of the Conoy, a tall, beautiful woman in her early twenties, strode into the white settlement with the bearings of a queen. John had never seen a female chief, and he was struck by her great beauty. After she left the settlement, he asked about her and was told that she was a chief but didn't yet have a husband.

John trapped and hunted on the Potomac for several weeks, unable to get the Conoy chief out of his mind. He returned to the camp, determined to make her his wife. Before the year ended, John married the chief, even though it was illegal at that time for whites to marry Indians. He renamed her Jane in an effort to promote her acceptance by whites. Despite the discrimination they faced from both whites and Indians, they were determined to have the freedom that John had dreamed of finding in America; but that proved difficult because life was changing radically in the colonies.

In the beginning, white settlers were content to build isolated settlements in America that respected the boundaries declared by Native Americans. But as white settlers arrived in ever-increasing numbers, creating an insatiable demand for settlement land, peaceful coexistence was replaced by a clumsily drafted relocation strategy of pushing Native Americans farther into the interior, the forerunner of modern-day internment. Advocates of that strategy were the powerful British corporations that garnered massive profits by seizing America's vast natural resources. Throughout the 1600s and 1700s, British corporations such as East India Company, South Sea Company, and Virginia Company were as wealthy and powerful as any twenty-first-century American corporation.

Corporate economic expansion in the colonies translated into racial and ethnic cleansing — residents who did not contribute to corporate economic expansion were forced out of their homes. John and Jane Turner found life in the colonies intolerable. For love, Jane had given up her leadership role with the Conoy and John had given up any hope of advancement in white society. They truly became stateless when the corporations pressured whites to seize Conoy land, thus cleansing the colonies of landowning Indians. Unable to live among whites or Indians, John and Jane went westward, beyond the reach of nefarious corporations and racist Indian-haters.

John and Jane followed the directions that La Salle had provided and traveled west until they reached the St. Joseph River, south of Lake Michigan. It was an area that would later be named South Bend, Indiana (Indiana means In dih an ah, land of the Indians, so named because of the many tribes that migrated there after being pushed off their land by the colonists). Most of the indigenous Indians on the St. Joseph River belonged to the Miami tribe, a member of the Algonquin nation, which also included the Conoy. For that reason, John and Jane were allowed to settle on the river. They picked out a piece of land on a high bluff overlooking the river and built a cabin. Protected by the Miami, they hunted, trapped and fished, and traded with the French, who set up trading posts to receive furs from the Miami. They also had four children: two girls and two boys, Richard and Samuel, the latter of whom was born when John was thirty-six. Those were good years for the Turners, although they found it necessary, from time to time, to fight with the Miami against their common enemy, the Iroquois. That part of the country was so remote that the settlement of South Bend would not be established for another 120 years. For the first time in his life John found true happiness and sanctuary.

John lived to be one hundred years old, and Jane lived to be ninety-five. They remained close in their old age, always sitting near enough to each other to be able to reach out and touch. Never once did they return to the colonies. Jane often thought about her ancestral land, but she knew she would never return to lay claim to it. When the end came for John, he died with his head cradled in Jane's arms. She gave him a Presbyterian burial, courtesy of an itinerant preacher, and then prayed to the Presbyterian God that she be allowed to accompany him on his long journey. To that end, she sat for thirty days on the crest of the bluff overlooking the river, praying for death. On the final day, she slumped over, a smile on her face — and thus began the journey.


* * *

As white settlements proliferated on the eastern seaboard during the last half of the eighteenth century, Native American settlements quietly receded into the interior, confident that a series of boundaries established between the Indians and the English meant that Indian Territory was no longer open to settlement by the colonists. Indeed, in 1763 the English government, which claimed sovereignty, declared all lands beyond the Appalachian Mountains reserved for the Indians. The British were not being generous in their allocation of land, for the dominate business acumen of the day put value only on coastal land that was accessible to ocean trade routes. The British considered interior territory that was not navigable by rivers with access to the ocean as essentially worthless, certainly not worth fighting over, so they gave it to the Indians.

Up until the 1770s, white settlers experienced conflicts with various Indian tribes on a regular basis, but nothing so severe that a forced relocation of entire tribes was ever considered a rational alternative. All that changed in 1776, when the British persuaded several Indian tribes to side with them against white settlers who supported the Revolution. Three of the tribes, the Shawnees, Delawares, and Mohawks, encouraged the Cherokee to join them in hostilities against the settlers, thereby helping the British. Advised of Cherokee attacks against settlers on the frontier, Thomas Jefferson, for the first time, advocated relocation as a final solution to the hostilities: "I hope that the Cherokees will now be driven beyond the Mississippi and that this in future will be declared to the Indians the invariable consequence of their beginning a war. Our contest with Britain is too serious and too great to permit any possibility of avocation from the Indians."


* * *

By the time the War of Independence began, Richard and Samuel Turner were respected traders who moved safely and easily among the various Indian tribes that inhabited what later became Indiana and Ohio. By then, the Miami were governed by Chief Mechecannochqua (Little Turtle), a man who achieved fame as one of the greatest chiefs and warriors of the era. Both sons married, but Richard and his wife never had children. Samuel and his wife, a British-born woman named Asbury, had five children: three girls, whose names have not survivied, and two boys, Joseph and Thomas. Thomas married an American-born woman named Scot and had five sons.

The War of Independence was hotly debated in South Bend. Chief Little Turtle, who lived about one hundred miles southeast of South Bend in an area that was later named Fort Wayne, supported the British, primarily because the French supported the revolutionaries and he despised the French.

Joseph and Thomas felt strongly about supporting the colonists and told their father that they felt compelled to enlist in George Washington's army. Before they set off to war, Samuel talked to them about their grandfather, John Turner, and his experiences with the British. He passed on information that had been passed on to him by his father about the military tactics that James Turner had written about in his famous book, Pallas Armata: Military Essayes of the Ancient Grecian, Roman, and Modern Art of War. He told them how to defeat those tactics by fighting an Indian-style war.

After the war, Joseph and Thomas returned to the Indiana territory, where Chief Little Turtle, perhaps resentful of the British defeat, went on the warpath and killed settlers in some of the worst battles in the territory's history.

Congress, then meeting in Philadelphia, sought a permanent home for the federal government. Maryland offered the land it had seized from the Conoy (about sixty-nine square miles), and on July 16, 1790, Congress voted to accept it as the site of the new capital. At first, it was named the Territory of Columbia, then later it was changed to District of Columbia. The Turners knew the true name, but they did not lay claim to the land. They knew that their grandfather and grandmother would understand. It was not a time in which whites could safely lay claim to Indian heritage.

At the end of the Revolutionary War, Congress took the position that the United States was entitled, by right of conquest, to the lands owned by England's allies in the war, and entitled to sovereignty over those people who lived on the land. As a result, the new American government adopted what it called a "conquered nation" attitude toward the Indians, with the national government administering Indian policy north of the Ohio River and the individual states administering that policy south of the river.

South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia argued that Congress had no authority to set policy in the matter. It was their position that everything controlled by England passed to the states after the war, not to Congress. It was the beginning of the states' rights argument that eventually led to the Civil War and haunts the South to the present day. North Carolina responded by granting Cherokee land in Tennessee to any whites who wanted to move there. Georgia seized Cherokee land and gave it to white citizens. Both land giveaways infuriated Cherokee leaders, who, although conceding the "spoils of war" argument made by the states, insisted that the English never owned or governed their land.

When the southern states rejected the Cherokee argument, the Indians attacked the whites who set up settlements in their territory. Likewise, the Indians north of the Ohio River, rejecting the "conquered nation" designation imposed by Congress, responded with violence against those who attempted to settle in their territory. Fearful that the Indian wars would spread throughout the country and become unmanageable, Congress negotiated peace with the Indians and signed the Treaty of Hopewell with the Cherokee in 1785, an agreement that defined their boundaries and recognized their right to protect their homeland. North Carolina and Georgia protested the treaty, but Congress insisted that the threat of war trumped the quarrelsome claims of individual states.

Three years after the Treaty of Hopewell, the U.S. Constitution was ratified, opening the door the following year for George Washington to be inaugurated in 1789 as the nation's first president. By then it was apparent that the Hopewell treaty was not being honored. White settlers in the south poured, by the thousands, onto Cherokee land and built settlements, with the tacit approval of state government.

Washington and his secretary of war, Henry Knox, set out to forge a more durable Indian policy based on the premise that Indian tribes were sovereign nations that must be dealt with by the federal government through the treaty process. Congress endorsed that policy by passing the Indian Trade and Intercourse Act, which required that all purchases of land from Indians be arranged through treaties negotiated by tribal leaders and federal commissioners appointed by the president. States were given no authority to negotiate treaties with Native Americans, which meant that they had no power to authorize land transfers from Indians to white settlers.

One problem the Indian Trade and Intercourse Act did not solve was what to do about the thousands of settlers who already had moved onto Cherokee land. Washington's solution was to negotiate a new treaty with the Cherokee that allowed the federal government to purchase the land that settlers occupied illegally. A new boundary was surveyed, and further encroachment by white settlers on Indian land was prohibited. The Treaty of Holston was concluded in 1791 and contained the following language: "That the Cherokee nations may be led to a greater degree of civilization, and to become herdsmen and cultivators, instead of remaining in a state of hunters, the United States will, from time to time, furnish gratuitously the said nation with useful implements of husbandry." The Cherokee embraced the treaty with optimistic enthusiasm and began to emulate the white settlers by acquiring black slaves and establishing cotton plantations so that they could accumulate capital by selling cotton abroad.


* * *

With the Treaty of Holston, President Washington and the Cherokee thought they had arrived at a permanent solution. What Washington didn't figure into his peace equation was the determination of the southern states to subvert the peace by adopting an argument that would poison race relations in the South for over two hundred years. The basis of that argument was that Native Americans were inferior to whites because of racial differences. Washington felt that the so-called uncivilized behavior exhibited by Indians was based on cultural differences, not racial differences — and therefore could be corrected by social and educational assimilation — but southern white politicians inflamed passions with racist rhetoric insisting with moralistic fervor that bordered on fanaticism that Indians could never be absorbed into white culture because they were racially deficient.

For that reason, southern states looked the other way for three decades as new white settlers poured onto Indian lands and established settlements that they vigorously defended. As white immigrants streamed into America, the need for land increased dramatically, both north and south of the Ohio River. Between 1800 and 1830, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia experienced an increase of 1.2 million whites, which translates to 1,600 new whites each day, all flowing into Indian Territory in search of land to settle.

The effect of the population explosion was to push the boundaries of the frontier west to the Mississippi River. In 1803 the Louisiana Purchase added what are today Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, parts of Texas, New Mexico, Wyoming, Colorado, and Louisiana, making it possible for settlers to rationalize pushing the Native American population west of the Mississippi River. At first the government attempted to entice Indians to move west of the Mississippi River by offering them seemingly attractive land trades. In 1817 and 1819 the Cherokee ceded territory in the East for land in the West, beginning with Arkansas. Cherokees in North Carolina who did not wish to leave the East were offered reservations outside the boundaries of their nation. The reservations were little more than internment camps without fences that greatly restricted the movement of Indians to white-owned land.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Inside America's Concentration Camps by James Dickerson. Copyright © 2010 James L. Dickerson. Excerpted by permission of Chicago Review Press Incorporated.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are saying about this

Steve Gardner

James Dickerson is ringing out a warning—the light that we see at the end of the tunnel has turned out to be a train after all. A train which, if not stopped, will take away our freedom, our way of life, and finally us. (Steve Gardner, author, Rambling Mind)

Mayumi Nakazawa

Points us to a future where fear and failed political leadership continue plans for concentration camps, continue to threaten individual liberties, and allow bad things to happen to good people; stories until now related only by those who had suffered from behind the razor wire fences. (Mayumi Nakazawa, author, Yuri: The Life and Times of Yuri Kochiyama)

Hodding Carter III

James Dickerson has opened long-closed doors to detail our nation's shameful reliance on concentration camp justice in time of war and internal division. This book should be required reading in every American high school and college—and for every President. (Hodding Carter III, author, journalist, educator, and former assistant secretary of state for public affairs)

Meet the Author

James L. Dickerson is an investigative journalist and the author of Devil’s Sanctuary, North to Canada, and Yellow Fever. He was a staff writer at the Clarion-Ledger/Jackson Daily News, the Commercial Appeal, the Delta Democrat-Times, the Greenwood Commonwealth, and the Tallahassee Democrat.

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Inside America's Concentration Camps: Two Centuries of Internment and Torture 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a high school sophomore and I choose to read this book for my research project about Japanese Internment Camps.  I think this book had a little too much information as far as background information. Unlike other memorials that go straight into the topic , this memorial describes more then just Japanese Internment Camps. Since the book is divided into three sections in which only one  section talks about Japanese Internment American camps, it made reading for me a waste of time. But when the author did describe the  conditions of Japanese Americans in internment camps, I was shock to find out how much agony these innocent people were going through. The author uses a German family as his way to describe what struggles internees went through in their barracks and in the  camp. Then the last section was about the aftermath of the result of internment camps during World War one in America, such as the  fact that years after the internment camps, the president at the time tries to apologize By sending a letter and giving money to the people  who lost their businesses and farms . But overall the author did a good job as to getting his point across about the struggles of being in   an internment camps. So I would recommend this book for other people who want to learn about the background history of internment camps, Japanese Internment Camps, and its aftermath.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I searched japanese torture and this was the only book that popped on so i was wondering if this was a good book