Saturday, January 19, 2013

Fighting for Democracy: Out of Many, One

In the past week, we have introduced the 7 courageous men and women featured in our latest exhibit Fighting for Democracy: Who is the "We" in "We the People"? which opens today.

Each story, compelling and fascinating in its own right, shines a light on how American democracy is a living, breathing thing that every citizen has a right and responsibility to improve upon as we strive to build "a more perfect union."

The sacrifice of the individuals profiled in Fighting for Democracy is only part of a much larger story.

 The exhibit, which runs through July 14, 2013, will empower us all to look into
what makes a democracy work?
Is it its principles? Its people?  Their vision for it? Or something much more?

Fittingly, this weekend we'll also be hosting our annual Martin Luther King Jr. Community Days on Sunday, Jan. 20 and Monday, Jan. 21. Admission to the museum will be free as we celebrate Dr. King's vision for America--shared by millions and fought for by millions more--with performances, documentaries, workshops and crafts for families. Dr. King has much in common with the 7 servicemen and women we've spent the week following.

Thank you for tweeting and sharing your thoughts with us as we've started to tell their provocative stories.

Continue to connect with us and let us know how you respond to the questions surrounding democracy by posting on Facebook or
Twitter @LevineMuseum.

Don't forget to use the hashtag #Fight4Dem.

What commitment have you made to improving these United States?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Fighting for Democracy: Domingo Los Banos and the Filipino Infantry Regiment

During the early 20th century, different groups of immigrants from places as varied as China, Japan, and Portugal worked on plantations in Hawaii. Although many of them performed similar roles in their jobs, their living spaces were segregated by their countries of origin. The schools, however, were integrated, unlike other parts of the country during this time. 

Why do you think policy allowed segregation on the job but not in schools?

Domingo Los Banos (pictured left) was born in 1925, and worked on a sugar plantation in Hawaii. As a Filipino American, he was forced to live in segregated camps and complete more difficult tasks as a part of his job. At his integrated school, he was able to interact with students from different backgrounds and come to appreciate the commonality of their struggle despite their ethnic differences.

The Filipino Infantry Regiment

At the age of 18, Domingo volunteered to fight in World War II, and once again met segregation and discrimination head on. After volunteering with the still-segregated military, he served in the 1st Filipino Infantry Regiment. As a first scout, his duties included sneaking behind enemy lines to learn valuable information. Despite many experiences on the front, Domingo's story exemplifies how the fight for democracy was bigger than battles in war.

To learn more about Domingo’s story and how he became a force of change, come view Fighting for Democracy at Levine Museum of the New South which opens  January 19th through July 14th, 2013.

How can you work to fight against discrimination today?
Share your thoughts with us on Facebook or on Twitter @LevineMuseum

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Fighting for Democracy: Hector Garcia and Latino soldiers

The era of Jim Crow, which legalized the separation of the races in education, public places, and even housing, is rarely considered outside of the black-white racial context. However, in America, school segregation was not solely confined to that of African-Americans. Throughout segregation, children of people who emigrated from Mexico were often placed into so-called “Mexican” schools, where they learned separately from other students in less-than-adequate facilities. 

Landmark court cases such as 1947's Mendez v. Westminster, which preceded the Brown v. Board of Education case against school desegregation, sought to change this harsh reality but not before students of Mexican descent were forced to go to schools that had limited books, funding and maintenance.

 Did you know that this happened? 
How has this changed your view of segregation?

Born in 1914, Hector Garcia (pictured right) grew up in Texas. The exhibit Fighting for Democracy shares his story, including how he attended a segregated “Mexican” school and then an integrated school. He entered the medical school in Galveston as the only Mexican-American. With the outbreak of World War II, he volunteered to be a medic in Europe. 

While Latinos were not "segregated" in the military per se, they were often assigned to units based on the darkness of their complexion. Dealing with this form of discrimination and more, Hector treated patients from many different ethnic and racial backgrounds. The experience was to have a profound influence on his life and what he chose to do after the war.  
Do you think you would have volunteered to fight for a country that denied some of your rights?

To learn how Hector’s story ends, come view the exhibit Fighting for Democracy at Levine Museum of the New South from January 19th through July 14th, 2013.

Share your thoughts on this historic issue and others with us on Facebook: or on Twitter @LevineMuseum

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Fighting for Democracy: Carl Gorman and The Navajo Code Talkers

Carl Gorman, featured in the exhibit Fighting For Democracy

During the early 20th century and even before, Native Americans had their cultures repressed through the practice of sending children to schools to assimilate them into American culture. To do this, they were essentially punished for being different and made to give up their cultural identities.

At these “Indian Training Schools,” far away from the reservations where their tribes were restricted, students oftentimes were beaten for speaking their own languages, had their hair cut and were banned from doing tribal traditions. They even had to stop going by their tribal names. 

How do you think this practice affected Native American children?
How might you feel if the government forced you to give up your family-based or ethnic traditions? 

Henry Bahe, Jr. and George Kirk, (left to right), operate a portable radio set
in a jungle clearing, Bougainville, Solomon Islands, December 1943.
National Archives

Born in 1907, Carl Gorman (pictured above) grew up on a Navajo reservation in Arizona. He was sent to various schools which sought to strip American Indian children of their native language. Yet during World War II, he was recruited to help develop and implement the Navajo Code for the military. He and 28 fellow Navajo Code Talkers, who formed the first all-Navajo platoon, were given the top-secret mission to use Navajo words to communicate messages for the U.S. Extremely accurate, even during the height of battle, the Code Talkers proved to be a valuable resource for the military and their code proved impossible for the enemy in the Pacific to break.

The record of success of the Navajo Code Talkers brings to the forefront a discussion about how sometimes the very things that make us different can also be our greatest strengths.

How do you think America’s diversity enriches its culture? 


To learn how Carl’s story ends and shows the fight for freedom at home and abroad come view the exhibit Fighting for Democracy at Levine Museum of the New South between January 19th and July 14th, 2013.
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or share your thoughts with us on Twitter @LevineMuseum

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Fighting for Democracy: Bill Terry and the Tuskegee Airmen

Throughout the South and the nation, Jim Crow laws were enacted to force segregation in public places. From public restrooms and lunch counters, to schools and jobs, the law limited interaction—and sometimes merely proximity—between blacks and whites. Many African Americans fled their homes in order to avoid persecution, and many of them ended up in the northeast and west.  The “Great Migration,” as it has come to be known, resulted in a shift of the South’s demographics.   

How do you think black Americans "voting with their feet" affected the South or their own prospects?

The exhibit Fighting for Democracy highlights Compton, California, athlete Bill Terry (pictured left).   Born in 1921, Terry lived in a city that had been directly affected by the Great Migration; his hometown of Los Angeles experienced over a tenfold increase of black residents between 1900 and 1930. Even with the influx of black citizens to northern and western cities, many still confronted racial discrimination in housing, economic opportunities and in social settings.

 When Terry applied to join the U.S. Army Air Corps at the outbreak of World War II, the press was invited to his induction; however, after discovering that he was African American, the colonel in charge told him to wait for an assignment while his friends began training. Later he was told that he was “too big” to be a pilot.  Terry went on to serve with the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African-American pilots who were integral to, but not integrated into, the US Air Force in World War II.  Although the Tuskegee Airmen would gain renown as being adept pilots, they struggled within a highly racialized-military.

Tuskegee Airmen pose for a photograph. 
Despite their equal skill sets, Terry and his colleagues  were subjected to discrimination both career-wise and in social settings in the military such as not being allowed to go into the same officer's clubs as their white counterparts.  

How do you think Bill (and others who were excluded from service because of their race/gender/ethnicity) felt about being discriminated against?

How would you feel?

To learn how Bill's story ends, come view the exhibit Fighting for Democracy at Levine Museum of the New South from January 19th through July 14th, 2013.
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or Twitter: @LevineMuseum 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Fighting for Democracy: Frances Slanger and the Army Nurse Corps

             Immigration to the east coast of the U.S. in the early 20th century was no easy task.  Individuals were subject to physical examinations and many times those with illnesses were sent back from whence they came. 

Furthermore, the passage of the Immigration Act of 1924 restricted immigration from non-western Europeans. According to the U.S. Department of State Office of the Historian, the purpose of the act was "to preserve the ideal of American homogeneity." The immigration of southern and eastern Europeans (especially Jews) was highly restricted and the immigration of Middle Easterners, East Asians, and Indians was prohibited.  

Why do you think that many Americans were so eager to support restricted immigration?

Inside the “Great Hall” where newly arrived immigrants wait for hours in long lines for inspection, Ellis Island Immigration Station, Port of New York, 1904.  Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.


The exhibit Fighting for Democracy includes the story of Frances Slanger. Born in Poland in 1913, Frances immigrated to the U.S. when she was 7-years-old in order to escape the persecution of Jews in her home country.  Instead of following the traditional path of marriage, she decided to enlist in the Army Nurse Corps, a branch of service entirely comprised of medically trained women.

Frances and fellow nurses tending to a patient, Boston City Hospital, ca 1940.
Frances is first on the right.
Courtesy of the Frances Slanger Collection in The Howard Gotlieb Archival Research
Center at Boston University.
 The more than 59,000 American women of the Army Nurse Corps in World War II served in field hospitals and evacuation hospitals, among other stations, in their efforts to treat injured soldiers. The nurses worked closer to the front lines than they had in previous wars, often putting themselves in the way of danger.

Although Frances dutifully served in France, she and her female colleagues were paid half their male counterparts’ salary.

What do you think it says about our society that equal pay for women is still a hot-button issue?

To learn how Frances’s story ends, come view the exhibit Fighting for Democracy at Levine Museum of the New South from January 19th through July 14th, 2013.

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or Twitter: @LevineMuseum

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Fighting for Democracy: George Saito and the Japanese Internment Camps

During the 1910s and 1920s, California and several other states passed several laws, deemed Alien Land Laws, which restricted or prevented many Asians from owning agricultural land.  In many ways, they were treated as second-class citizens. 

When the U.S. entered World War II, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, over 100,000 Japanese and Japanese-American families were forced to relocate to internment camps located in the west.  These families often lived in bare-minimum conditions, and many people lost personal property due to their move.

Surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards, half of the residents in the internment camps were children who would later grow up bearing the emotional and psychological scars of being removed from their previous homes.

Were you aware that this happened?

What do you think about the statistic that 100,000 people were forcibly moved during the 20th century?

Residents of Hollywood, California, start a campaign to push Japanese Americans out of the community, May 1923.  Courtesy of United Press International, Japanese American National Museum.

George (far right) and his two brothers
pictured at Camp Shelby Mississippi in 1944

The exhibit Fighting for Democracy features the story of George Saito, a Japanese-American born in 1918. During World War II George's family was interned in an internment camp.

In 1944, he volunteered for the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (a segregated unit), and was sent to fight on the European front. The majority of members of this regiment were born in the U.S. to Japanese parents, and they had one of the most impressive records of World War II.  

To learn how George's story ends and what it reveals about who is the "We" in "We the people," come view the exhibit Fighting for Democracy at Levine Museum of the New South from January 19th - July 14th, 2013.

What do you think about the fact that George was fighting for a country that was restricting members of his own family just because of their ethnic background?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Fighting for Democracy: Hazel Ying Lee and the Women Airforce Service Pilots

During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Chinese immigrants and their families encountered many difficulties in their efforts to incorporate themselves into American society. Many were excluded from entering certain occupations due to their ethnic background, and, in 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act banned further immigration by Chinese people unless they could prove their American ancestry by paternal lineage. 

What do you think about policies that exclude people from immigrating to the US?  

One of the people whose story is told in the exhibit Fighting for Democracy is Hazel Ying Lee, pictured above. Born in Oregon in 1912, as Hazel grew older, she looked for employment in order to support her family. As a Chinese-American woman, employment discrimination made it so she could only find a job as an elevator operator. However, she discovered a passion for flying, and applied for the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program during World War II.

WASP was founded in 1943 by women pilots who wanted the chance to serve in the Air Force in non-combat duties. Considered civilian volunteers and civil service workers, about 1,100 women flew stateside in the WASP program where they ferried supplies and even tested planes so that male pilots could head to combat duty. Lasting only two years, the WASP program's existence was classified to the public until the 1970s!

Despite her remarkable abilities, Hazel, like all other women pilots, was paid far less than her male counterparts when she entered the program. 

Did you know about the WASP program?
How much progress do you think women have made in securing equal rights/respect in the work place?

WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) are briefed in ready room prior to a flight, Avenger Field, Sweetwater, Texas, May 1943;
Hazel is the person at the far right of the image.

Courtesy of the National Women's History Museum.

To learn how Hazel’s story ends, come view the exhibit Fighting for Democracy at Levine Museum of the New South from January 19th -July 14th, 2013. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Fighting for Democracy Day 1: Introduction

Our upcoming exhibit Fighting for Democracy: Who is the “We” in “We the People?” opens on Saturday, January 19th. 

This exhibit, which originated at The National
Center for the Preservation of Democracy in Los Angelesexplores and exposes the important efforts made by minorities during World War II. 
In the lead up to the opening, each day we’re profiling one of the seven individuals featured in the exhibit on this blog.  We'll introduce them, their roles in the war, as well as give context for how their story reflects not only an American story but sheds light on the fight for true democracy here at home.

In the meantime, we invite you to share your thoughts and reactions on our Facebook and Twitter accounts.  Do you have any stories to share? 

What do you think of when you hear the word “we” in “We the people”?