Nisei Graduate

Nisei Graduate

Seventy years after being sent to an internment camp for Japanese-Americans, Bessie Kawachi Chin, 87, receives an honorary college degree. (SJMN)

Bessie Kawachi Chin was a promising Chemistry student when she entered San Jose State University in 1941. But her studies were cut short when she and her family were sent away to an internment camp for Japanese-Americans in Heart Mountain, Wyoming.

Nearly 70 years later, Chin is receiving an honorary degree from the university she was forced to leave. San Jose State and California’s universities are awarding honorary degrees to Nisei, the children of Japanese immigrants, like Chin, whose education was interrupted when they were shipped to remote internment camps.

This story by the San Jose Mercury News includes archival photos and a touching interview with 87-year-old Chin, who reflects upon her life and how it was altered by the hysteria of war.

For most of her life Chin said she rarely spoke of her experience in the camp. Then, ten years ago, she spearheaded a quilting project with other Japanese-American women survivors of internment. Together they made a quilt to commemorate their experiences of trauma and shame. “It was a healing process,” Chin said and each person had a different story to tell.

CHANNEL: San Jose Mercury News

Length: 6:42

Video by Gary Reyes
Narration by Lisa Krieger