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VIRTUAL AUTHOR TALK – Japanese American Experiences at Seabrook Farms, 1944-1947

May 7 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

A canning and frozen-foods agribusiness in Cumberland County, New Jersey, during the Second World War, Seabrook Farms employed 7,000 laborers in its fields, plants, offices, and warehouses, and processed produce from more than 50,000 acres of farmland. In 1944, Seabrook Farms began recruiting incarcerated Japanese Americans from camps, and by the end of 1946, more than 2,500 Issei (Japanese immigrants) and Nisei (American-born citizens of Japanese descent) lived in company housing and worked on vegetable sorting, cleaning, and packaging lines in the plant. This talk will explore Seabrook Farms as a New Jersey site of Asian American history, and, from Professor Andy Urban’s research for his book in progress, highlight Japanese American experiences at Seabrook Farms that have not garnered significant attention or featured as part of Seabrook Farms’ collective public memory. In particular, he will focus on a group of three hundred “renunciants” who were sent to Seabrook Farms in the fall of 1946, and detained there under what the U.S. Department of Justice called “relaxed internment.” Urban will examine the renunciants’ fight to be avoid deportation, and their longer battle to have their American citizenship restored – and how Seabrook Farms factors into this unique history.

Andy Urban is an Associate Professor of American Studies and History at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. His research, scholarship, teaching, and public humanities work focus on labor, migration, and public memory. Andy’s current book project explores the history of Seabrook Farms, an agribusiness in southern New Jersey that recruited and employed incarcerated Japanese Americans, guestworkers from the British West Indies, migrant farmworkers from the US South, European Displaced Persons, and stateless Japanese Peruvians during the 1940s and 1950s. His opinion pieces have appeared in the Journal of Asian American Studies, Journal of American Ethnic History and Journal of American History.

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Andrew Dauphinee, Instruction and Outreach Librarian
Andy Urban, Associate Professor, American Studies & History, Rutgers University