Fonds UAA Fonds 0648 - Gordon Hirabayashi fonds

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Gordon Hirabayashi fonds

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  • Multiple media

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UAA Fonds 0648

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1.0 m of textual records
3 photographs
2 video cassettes
99 slides

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Name of creator


Biographical history

Dr. Gordon Hirabayashi was a sociologist who, for most of his career, was a professor and chair of the Sociology department at the University of Alberta. Dr. Hirabayashi was born in Auburn, a suburb of Seattle, in 1918. He studied at the University of Washington, where he received his BA, MA and PhD in Sociology. While at university, Dr. Hirabayashi became a religious pacifist, converted to Quakerism, and joined many organizations, including the YMCA and the American Japanese Citizens League. Dr. Hirabayashi is known for his human rights work, and most notably for the treatment of Japanese Americans during WWII. After the bombing of Pearl Harbour in 1941, while in his senior year of his undergraduate studies, Dr. Hirabayashi gained conscientious objector status from the U.S. Government. Once the U.S. government enforced the internment of Japanese citizens, he deliberately broke the enforced curfew and evacuation orders, after which he turned himself into the FBI. This led to the court case Hirabayashi v. The United States in 1943 and his subsequent imprisonment. In the 1980s, although he had already served out his sentence, Dr. Hirabayashi’s conviction was overturned once it was brought to light that the U.S. Army made false claims of espionage and sabotage conducted by Japanese Americans to warrant the exclusion order against Japanese citizens.

Once released, Dr. Hirabayashi completed his studies. For his PhD thesis, he studied the social adjustment of Russian Doukhobors in British Columbia. After earning his PhD, Dr. Hirabayashi taught at the American University campuses in Beirut and Cairo for three and four years respectively. During this time, he focused on comparative cultural studies within Middle Eastern and Asian cultures. In 1959, he moved to the University of Alberta, and served as chair of the Sociology department from 1963-1970. Dr. Hirabayashi remained at the University of Alberta until his retirement in 1983. Apart from his work, he was involved in a number of organizations. As a member of the Edmonton Japanese Community Association, he established their newsletter, Moshi Moshi, created in the 1980s to inform community members of the Canadian government redress of the treatment of Japanese citizens during WWII. He also sat on the Council for the National Association of Japanese Canadians (NAJC), and remained an active Quaker as a member of the Canadian Yearly Meeting.

For his commitment to human rights, Dr. Hirabayashi posthumously received the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama in 2012. Also in 2012, the NAJC established the Gordon Hirabayashi Human Rights Award.

Custodial history

The records in this fonds were gathered together by members of the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre in Toronto, Ontario and then shipped to the University of Alberta Archives. They were officially donated to the U of A Archives by his wife, Susan Carnahan.

Scope and content

Fonds consists of the personal and professional papers of Gordon Hirabayashi and includes photographs, video cassettes, slides, articles, essays and research materials pertaining to his time and activities in Canada.

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Immediate source of acquisition


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      Subject to copyright.

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      Rules for Archival Description (RAD) and Provincial Archives of Alberta Subject Headings (PAASH).


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      Created by AGHollow, 22 Apr 2024.

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        Script of description


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