Jewish Immigration, Labor Activism, and Japanese American Exclusion and IncarcerationRachel Schreiber
During World War II, Elaine Black Yoneda, the daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants, spent eight months in a concentration camp—not in Europe, but in California. She did this voluntarily and in solidarity, insisting on accompanying her husband, Karl, and their son, Tommy, when they were incarcerated at the Manzanar Relocation Center. Surprisingly, while in the camp, Elaine and Karl publicly supported the United States’ decision to exclude Japanese Americans from the coast.
Elaine Black Yoneda is the first critical biography of this pioneering feminist and activist. Rachel Schreiber deftly traces Yoneda’s life as she became invested in radical politics and interracial and interethnic activism. In her work for the International Labor Defense of the Communist Party, Yoneda rose to the rank of vice president. After their incarceration, Elaine and Karl became active in the campaigns to designate Manzanar a federally recognized memorial site, for redress and reparations to Japanese Americans, and in opposition to nuclear weapons.
Schreiber illuminates the ways Yoneda’s work challenged dominant discourses and how she reconciled the contradictory political and social forces that shaped both her life and her family’s. Highlighting the dangers of anti-immigrant and anti-Asian xenophobia, Elaine Black Yoneda recounts an extraordinary life.
"Rachel Schreiber, an expert on Jewish women labor activists, presents a highly useful biographical sketch of an important figure in Elaine Black Yoneda. Avoiding the extremes of mythologizing or
demonizing her subject, she offers a balanced account that historians specializing in women’s history, labor history, and Japanese American history will heartily welcome to the scholarly works in these areas of inquiry."
—Brian Hayashi, Professor of History at Kent State University, and author of Asian American Spies: Race, Loyalty, and the Office of Strategic Services during World War II
"Elaine Black Yoneda is an important contribution to the studies of women, labor, radicalism, civil liberties, and ethnicity. Schreiber’s accessible and nuanced biography of California labor activist Elaine Black Yoneda provides a model for scholars writing about radical women; it illuminates Yoneda’s complicated and contradictory stands for civil liberties and civil rights. Schreiber beautifully positions Yoneda within the ethnic, labor, and radical communities in which she operated and offers lucid interpretations of both Yoneda’s personal and professional life and the historical issues and controversies in which she was involved."
—Kathleen A. Brown, Professor of History at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas
"Rejecting the limitations placed on working-class Jewish women of her era, Elaine Black Yoneda dedicated her life to fighting oppression. Rachel Schreiber deftly chronicles the journey of this remarkable woman, whose activism traversed many of the key political and social issues of mid-twentieth-century America. Though a work of history, this is a timely book; Schreiber shows us how much her subject’s story can teach us about today’s vital social justice concerns."
—Mark Wild, Professor of History at California State University, Los Angeles, and author of Street Meeting: Multiethnic Neighborhoods in Early Twentieth Century Los Angeles