Cox, an amateur historian, recreates the little-known expulsion of Japanese immigrants from Toledo, Ore., in 1925.
On July 12 of that year, a mob of some 50 white men, urged on by a larger gathering of women and children, forced a group of Japanese laborers to leave the timber town of Toledo. The white residents resented the Japanese–who had been hired to work the difficult and undesirable mill jobs– because of anxieties about both job security and property values. Cox, in unadorned but vigorous and buttressed prose (there are times when every sentence is followed by a footnote), plainly relates the unconscionable actions of the rioters, the failure of the police to act and the stance of the Pacific Spruce Corporation. He goes beyond the incident itself, describing how the riots led to the first civil case of its kind to be tried in the United States, when the outraged Japanese Association of Oregon brought suit. The group won, and the state of Oregon levied significant financial punishments against the perpetrators. Cox translates significant portions of the Japanese newspapers’ accounts of the incident and the subsequent civil case, and, in a thorough appendix, reprints much of the original source material from which he worked. As if to remind readers of the importance of his subject, he also includes details on the incarceration of Japanese residents during WWII, an act that–in an absurd case of willed national amnesia–was not as swiftly rectified as the deportation of 1925.
A yeomanly piece of historical reconstruction that engagingly chronicles a critical slice of the past.