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September 4: A Jewish Woman Among the Interned Japanese

September 4, 2013

25.featurette.yoneda4Elaine Black, a Communist labor organizer with the International Longshoreman’s Union who argued for free day care for women and equal pay for equal work back in the 1930s, was born in New York on this date in 1906. As a child, she relocated with her leftwing parents to San Diego, where her father ran a dry goods store. In the 1930s, Black rose up within the clerical staff as a political force within the ILU. When, as part of her work, she bailed out of jail Karl Hama Yoneda, a Japanese American activist who’d been arrested at an ILU-sponsored demonstration, the two became lovers. California’s “anti-miscegenation” laws prevented them from marrying until 1935, when, facing legal charges for her involvement in a free speech campaign, her lawyers advised them to go tie the knot up in Washington. When her husband was sent with 1,000 other Japanese Americans to the internment camp in Manzanar, California, following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, she and their toddler son moved there, too. After the war, she and Karl worked for years to ensure that the internment of Japanese Americans would not be forgotten. She was active until her death in May, 1988, one day after attending a rally in support of Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign.

“Mrs. Yoneda, known in labor circles as ”the Red Angel’ and as ‘Tiger Woman” . . . because of her militancy, was the only woman on the steering committee of the 1934 San Francisco general strike, which was a response to the killing of two longshoremen participating in a West Coast walkout.” —New York Times