Relations Beyond Barbed Wire
Many organizations challenged the internment of Japanese Americans during the war. The majority of individuals who protested internment were pacifists like the Quakers, Mennonites, the Brethren, and the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Often forming coalitions, these organizations took a collective stance against the war and the violation of citizens’ rights. Some activists worked in camps as conscientious objectors, while others corresponded with, visited, and brought donations to internees.
Most critically, Yale’s vast collection of internee correspondence reveals that a number of these acquaintances developed into friendships that outlasted the war. During World War II, Quaker and pacifist Elizabeth Page Harris became involved with the American Friends Service Committee and spearheaded a number of initiatives to assist Japanese Americans. In this capacity, she corresponded with over twenty internees, many of whom she had met only in passing. As noted by her correspondents, Harris’s frequent visits to camps, generous donations (like a piano), and exchange of holiday cards reassured many internees that Japanese Americans still had friends and supporters on the outside.