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Faculty member's book addresses Christianity in internment camps





Anne M. Blankenship, NDSU assistant professor of religious studies, has published a new book about Christianity in the infamous camps where Japanese-Americans were incarcerated during World War II.

The book, “Christianity, Social Justice, and the Japanese American Incarceration during World War II,” is published by the University of North Carolina Press. The 296-page book examines how church leaders ministered to the camps’ sizeable Christian minority, and how they were forced to assess the ethics and pragmatism of what they saw as an unjust social system.

She came up with the idea for the book when visiting her grandmother in Idaho, and stumbled upon an archive of material at the Jerome County Historical Society. “Their basement was a mess of dusty stacks of newspapers and folders full of documents about Minidoka Relocation Center, a Japanese American incarceration center that operated nearby during World War II,” Blankenship said. “I didn’t end up using more than one document from the Jerome archive, but it led me to investigate how much had been written about religious practices in the camps.

Blankenship said her book explores both religious practices among incarcerated Japanese-Americans and the response from sympathetic white Christians. “Many progressive Protestants and Catholics voiced their immediate support for the minority after Dec. 7. Only Quakers sustained that public protest once the government announced the removal of more than 115,000 people—the majority of whom were U.S. citizens—from the West Coast and confine them in remote camps,” she said. “Christian groups were the only national organizations that worked to alleviate conditions in the camps, help with resettlement or change public opinion about the minority. My book will begin to fill the gap in our knowledge of the incarceration and also demonstrate the diversity of social justice programs among mainline Protestants at the time.”

Blankenship earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Puget Sound, her master’s degree in religion from Yale Divinity School and her doctorate in American religious history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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