Christianity, Social Justice, and the Japanese American Incarceration during World War II

By Anne M. Blankenship

296 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 14 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-2920-9
    Published: November 2016
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-4992-2
    Published: October 2016
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-2921-6
    Published: October 2016
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-2919-3
    Published: November 2016

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Anne M. Blankenship's study of Christianity in the infamous camps where Japanese Americans were incarcerated during World War II yields insights both far-reaching and timely. While most Japanese Americans maintained their traditional identities as Buddhists, a sizeable minority identified as Christian, and a number of church leaders sought to minister to them in the camps. Blankenship shows how church leaders were forced to assess the ethics and pragmatism of fighting against or acquiescing to what they clearly perceived, even in the midst of a national crisis, as an unjust social system. These religious activists became acutely aware of the impact of government, as well as church, policies that targeted ordinary Americans of diverse ethnicities.

Going through the doors of the camp churches and delving deeply into the religious experiences of the incarcerated and the faithful who aided them, Blankenship argues that the incarceration period introduced new social and legal approaches for Christians of all stripes to challenge the constitutionality of government policies on race and civil rights. She also shows how the camp experience nourished the roots of an Asian American liberation theology that sprouted in the sixties and seventies.

About the Author

Anne M. Blankenship is assistant professor of American religious history at North Dakota State University.
For more information about Anne M. Blankenship, visit the Author Page.


“This important work argues convincingly that to understand Japanese incarceration, it is essential to incorporate the role of protest movements within the U.S. religious community. Highly recommended.”--Choice

"Opens up [the story of how some American church people ministered to Japanese Americans in the camps] with skill, deep research, and compelling storytelling and analysis. It’s certain to become the definitive work on the subject. And it compels thought on how to respond to the current hysteria around other immigrant groups perceived to be disloyal."--The Christian Century

“[Blankenship] deftly demonstrates the complexities of white Christian programs and Nikkei religious practice and the importance of spiritual life to the incarceration story.”--Western Historical Quarterly

“Will likely spark productive classroom discussions about the complex layers of power, agency, struggle, and meaning in the religious experiences and ideologies of the incarcerated, the incarcerators, and bystanders.”--Reading Religion

“Succeeds as both cultural and religious history by providing a compelling discussion of the government’s attempt to uphold religious freedoms while simultaneously attempting to justify its suspension of civil liberties in the name of national security.”--American Historical Review

"The first full exploration of the role of Christianity among Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II, this powerful book is a marvelous introduction to an unjustly neglected topic. Taking the study of Japanese Americans in a new direction, Anne Blankenship deepens our understanding not only of religious practice in the camps but of government regulation of freedom of religion. A vital addition to literature in religious studies, history, and ethnic studies."--Greg Robinson, Université du Québec à Montréal