Schools behind Barbed Wire: The Untold Story of Internment and the Children of Arrested Enemy Aliens

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Often overlooked in the infamous history of U.S. internment during World War II is the plight of internee children. Drawn from personal interviews and multiple primary source materials, Schools behind Barbed Wire is the first book to uncover this unique chapter in American history. Previous to the attack on Pearl Harbor, the children of German and Japanese nationals took their 'Americanness' for granted. Many were citizens, born on American soil. Many had worn Boy Scout uniforms, pledged allegiance to the flag, and even collected tin foil in order to do their 'bit' for the war effort. But all this changed with the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Without warning their American identity was suspect and on the basis of their parents' nationality, they too were treated as enemies of the state and shipped off to remote internment camps such as the one located in Crystal City, TX. Schools behind Barbed Wire is the story of the boys and girls who grew up in the Crystal City internment camp and spent the war years attending one of its three internment camp schools. These children attended regular classes in math and English, joined clubs, and tried to go about 'normal' life in the most extraordinary of circumstances. For many, their wartime experiences were often the defining moments of their lives. Professor Karen L. Riley has meticulously recorded the struggles these children faced everyday in her new book Schools behind Barbed Wire. No account of World War II would be complete without the wartime stories of these children.

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Editorial Reviews

Times Educational Supplement
Book of the week.
Schools Behind Barbed Wire meticulously charts the short but varied histories of these three institutions [Japanese, German, and American schools], offering in the process a string of fascinating cameos highlighting how schools are culturally defined, and how they, in turn, shape and define the pupils who pass through them.
American Historical Review
A useful addition to the literature on internment of enemy aliens.
Journal Of Southern History
Numerous interviews and extensive use of previously unexamined primary sources bring some pithty evidence to light about the experiences of a unique set of World War II detainees.
Southern Historian
Schools Behind Barbed Wire adds a remarkable chapter to World War II literature. . . . Anyone interested in civilian internment, education, and the south during World War II must read this important book.
The Journal Of Southern History
Numerous interviews and extensive use of previously unexamined primary sources bring some pithty evidence to light about the experiences of a unique set of World War II detainees.
The Journal of Southern History
Numerous interviews and extensive use of previously unexamined primary sources bring some pithty evidence to light about the experiences of a unique set of World War II detainees.
Arnold Krammer
Seldom is groundbreaking history written from the experiences of children, especially the German and Japanese children whose families were arrested and imprisoned as 'Enemy Aliens' during World War II. Dr. Riley's remarkable study of the Federal schools at the Crystal City Family Internment Camp analyzes the internal pressures of camp life, the contradictions between tradition and wartime patriotism, and the difficulties of teaching children about democracy behind barbed wire. Extremely well-written and based on interviews and original documents, Dr. Riley has brought the history of a little-known government education program out of the shadows of World War Two.
Bruce F. Pauley
Schools behind Barbed Wire is a beautifully written, well-researched, and fascinating book about a previously forgotten topic. It should appeal to educators, to historians interested in the treatment of enemy aliens during the Second World War, and to people intrigued by the acculturation of racial minorities. It is also a refreshing contrast to the dismal story of the internment of Japanese-Americans.
Michael W. Apple
Karen Riley has helped us restore the memory of the complicated lives and educational experiences of people who were caught up in the effects of international conflicts. This richly detailed book deserves to be read by anyone who wants to understand what can happen to schooling in times of such conflicts.
Crystal City Family Internment Camp in Texas held both German and Japanese families and the American citizen children during World War II. Operated by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the camps operated a Japanese, a German, and an American school for the children of the camps. Riley (education, Auburn U.) tells the story of the children's experiences in these schools: the curriculum, the extracurricular activities, the socialization of the children, and the attempts to teach them about freedom and democracy while they were being held in detention. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780742501713
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/1/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 1,513,549
  • Product dimensions: 5.84 (w) x 8.94 (h) x 0.56 (d)

Meet the Author

Karen L. Riley is associate professor in the School of Education at Auburn University, Montgomery.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Foreword Chapter 2 Foreword Chapter 3 Interrupted Lives Chapter 4 Day of Infamy and Beyond Chapter 5 From Migrant Camp to Internment Camp Chapter 6 An Onion Crate and a Box of Chalk Chapter 7 The German School: Deutschland ├╝ber alles Chapter 8 The German School: Organization, Curriculum, and Teachers Chapter 9 Vocational Education, Box Kites, and Brahms Chapter 10 The Japanese Struggle for Control Chapter 11 The Japanese School and Curriculum: Yamato Damashii Chapter 12 Sports, Scouts, Kenkyu Kai, and Adult Education Chapter 13 The American Schools: Happy Days Are Here Again Chapter 14 The American Schools: Organization, Teachers, and Curriculum Chapter 15 School Days, School Days, Dear Old Golden Rule Days Chapter 16 Reflections and Epilogue

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