LOS ANGELES (AP) — The auction of a series of sketches purportedly drawn by an artist at the Japanese internment camp at Manzanar was canceled Tuesday after groups protested it was offensive and immoral to profit off the misery of incarcerated people.
On April 4th, a group of leaders from the Japanese American National Museum (JAMN), the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), the Japanese American Confinement Sites Consortium (JACSC) conducted a whirlwind effort to solicit support for a petition aimed at eBay to stop the sale of drawings attributed to an incarceree at Manzanar. As the Associated Press via U.S. News and World Report story outlines, the groups believe the sketches may have been drawn by Giichi Matsumura, “the subject of a series of stories first reported by The Associated Press about a Manzanar incarceree who died in a storm while sketching and painting in the high Sierra in the final days of the war…” If so, the Matsumura family had not been aware of the sale of the items and are interested in recovering the drawings. The eBay sales were successfully halted before they could be sold, because, according to an eBay spokesperson they “violated an artifacts policy prohibiting the sale of items from government or protected land.”
In addition to the auction and its implications with regard to artifacts from the incarceration, the story highlights the speed and effectiveness with which JANM, JACL, and JACSC were able to rally the broad Japanese American community to create awareness of the issue and gather signatures from supporting organizations. Within a day, they were able to get signatures from 59 organizations (including BIJAC), 29 individuals and 1,328+ petition signers. A statement from JACSC can be found here.
Auctions of Internment Camp Artifacts Continue
Despite the victory to prevent the sale of the Manzanar sketches, auctions of internment camp “collectibles” continue. Among them, a Poston internment camp shirt with embroidered names is currently listed on eBay. The shirt purports to include “‘227 ‘ embroidered on the back just below the collar is an homage to the first group of Japanese Americans that were forced to evacuate, on six days notice: the 227 residents of Bainbridge Island in Washington state.” Asking prices is $7,500.
A change.org petition has been created to collect signatures to stop the sale of the Poston internment camp shirt. Interested individuals may sign here.