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Stephanie Tashiro

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

When Stephanie Tashiro was a young girl growing up in Davenport, Iowa, she wondered why her paternal grandparents never told her stories about their own childhoods and their parents back in California. She found out in 1995, when she decided to research what life was like for Japanese Americans during World War II for a sophomore Historical Perspectives class, Period Seven at Davenport Central High School.

It was here that she first learned the 110,000 Japanese immigrants who came to America at the beginning of the 20th century, in spite of the Naturalization Act of 1790, which prohibited Asians from becoming United States citizens. Many, including her great grandparents, settled down to farm until California passed the Alien Land Law prohibiting them from owning land. Still eager to be good Americans. The Japanese merely transferred farm ownership to their children, the nisei, Americans by birth. Stephanie's grandparents were among these.

The Japanese Americans persevered in spite of racist laws and hate groups, including the Hearst newspapers. Slowly they became successful farmers and businessmen and women.

Then came December 7th, 1941. President Roosevelt ordered an immediate 8am to 6pm curfew on all Americans of Japanese descent. All of California, Oregon and Washington were designated as military zones. In May 1942, all Japanese Americans in these states were given days to put their affairs in order before being sent to one of ten large internment camps. Most lost their farms, their businesses and their money. Here they remained in primitive conditions until the Battle of Midway turned the tide of war, and they were allowed to return home, though not much was left.

Stephanie Tashiro now understood why her grandparents had always been such patriotic Americans. Few other citizens had fought as hard as they had to keep the American dream alive, a dream threatened by war from within and without.

Stephanie titled her research paper "Lives Lost." She received an "A" for the course. But that was nothing compared to the pride she gained in being a Tashiro, an American.

Rock Island Lines is underwritten by the Illinois Humanities Council and Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, with additional funding from Humanities Iowa, the Iowa Arts Council, and Augustana College, Rock Island.

Beginning 1995, historian and folklorist Dr. Roald Tweet spun his stories of the Mississippi Valley to a devoted audience on WVIK. Dr. Tweet published three books as well as numerous literary articles and recorded segments of "Rock Island Lines." His inspiration was that "kidney-shaped limestone island plunked down in the middle of the Mississippi River," a logical site for a storyteller like Dr. Tweet.