History journal examines liberal Protestants' role in U.S.-Japanese relations

  • Sept. 23, 2013


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Liberal Protestant organizations played important roles in the early 1900s in promoting improved relations between the United States and East Asian nations and in opposing anti-Japanese prejudice and policies at home, Sarah Griffith writes in the current Journal of American History.

Griffith, an assistant professor of history at Queens University of Charlotte, focuses on the work of YMCA officials Galen Fisher, John Merle Davis and George Gleason to examine how Christians moved from supporting Japanese militarization in the late 1800s to opposing imperialism in the inter-war years.

The consistent thread, she writes in “’Where We Can Battle for the Lord and Japan’: The Development of Liberal Protestant Antiracism Before World War II,” was opposition to racial discrimination at home, from California school segregation in 1906 to the federal ban on Japanese immigration in 1924 to internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II.

The quarterly Journal of American History is published by the Organization of American Historians, based at Indiana University Bloomington. Also in the September 2013 issue:

  • Sarah E. Cornell describes the limited and precarious freedom that fugitive slaves were able to achieve in Mexico, which barred former slaves from living there but also failed to create a policy to extradite them to the U.S.
  • Michael Ayers Trotti confronts the challenges historians face when they use trends in lynchings to track anti-black violence. He argues that lynchings were meant to inspire terror and therefore resist quantification.
  • James Loeffler challenges the notion that U.S. policy on human rights is a zero-sum game between moral principles and political calculation, focusing on American Jewish advocacy at the United Nations in 1945.
  • Benjamin C. Waterhouse describes how business leaders in the 1970s learned to use economic worries to turn public opinion against labor unions and liberalism, starting with their mobilization against Richard Nixon’s wage and price controls.

See the Journal of American History website for more information, including online content, resources for teachers and JAH Podcasts on the state of American environmental history, the presentation of history in national parks and articles from previous issues of the journal.

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Galen Fisher with Japanese students

The Journal of American History cover shows Galen Fisher with Japanese students in Tokyo, circa 1917, when he headed the YMCA in Japan. | Photo by Journal of American History

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