Manzanar and Beyond (book)
Creators: Frank F. Chuman
Book cover. Courtesy of Asian American Curriculum Project
View in the Densho Encyclopedia
Prominent Nisei attorney recounts his life, including his experiences as the administrator of the hospital at Manzanar concentration camp and his role in landmark legal battles advocating for redressing injustices experienced by Japanese Americans.
Frank Chuman begins by recounting the day he left Manzanar and his work as the hospital administrator there, in order to complete his law education by going to the University of Toledo. He then returns to sharing how and why his parents immigrated to the U.S., including their strong sense of pride in being from Kagoshima Prefecture, or the Satsuma clan. He recalls his childhood, first in Santa Barbara, California, and then in Los Angeles, where his father worked as a gardener and then opened a dry cleaning business. Chuman was involved in numerous community activities, and went on to UCLA. He hoped to enter the Foreign Service after graduating but was told he would not be considered because of his ethnicity. He then decided to go to law school, and was attending USC Law School when Pearl Harbor was attacked.
He recounts how his parents destroyed everything Japanese in their possession, including how his father buried a samurai sword in the ground to conceal it. Chuman was asked to serve as the administrator for the hospital that would be established at Manzanar, and shares his unique memories of the setting up of Manzanar—including medical services—before the forcible removal of Japanese Americans began in earnest. He eventually left to finish law school, first at University of Toledo and then at University of Maryland. He returned to California to help his parents leave Manzanar.
He also recalls how he worked with A.L. Wirin to get the renunciations of citizenship that occurred at Tule Lake , often under duress, reversed, and then shared an office with fellow Nisei attorney John Aiso . The latter part of the book provides his personal account of other important legal issues related to Japanese Americans, including writing The Bamboo People: The Law and Japanese-Americans (1976), and coming up with the " writ of error coram nobis " legal strategy that was eventually adopted in order to get the Supreme Court cases in which Japanese Americans challenged the legality of the curfew and exclusion reopened in the 1980s.
Frank F. Chuman was a prominent attorney who is best known as the author of The Bamboo People: The Law and Japanese-Americans (1976). In addition to his regular law practice, he played significant roles in some of the most important legal battles to restore rights and redress injustices experienced by Japanese Americans, including devising the strategy to use writ of error coram nobis as the means by which to reopen the wartime cases challenging the constitutionality of the curfew, exclusion, and incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.
Might also like Birth of an Activist: The Sox Kitashima Story by Tsuyako Kitashima; Fox Drum Bebop by Gene Oishi; Out of the Frying Pan: Reflections of a Japanese American by Bill Hosokawa
For More Information
Ishikawa, Troy. " It Started with a Laugh and Ended with a Laugh: My interview with Frank Chuman ." Discover Nikkei , Dec 26, 2011.
Finding Aid for Frank Chuman papers , Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA.