• All
  • Text
  • Images
  • Audio
  • Video

Captive Patriotism and Seabrook's Secured Accommodations by Michael Denis

Against the backdrop of the Second World War and the culture of suspicion that the United States projected onto Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans, Seabrook Farms constructed a narrative of patriotism and security. C.F. Seabrook capitalized on the importance placed on agricultural production during the war to funnel labor from the U.S. government. The propaganda surrounding the laborers recruited to Seabrook projected a façade of security and comfort for Americans who believed that individuals of Japanese descent could be subversive and dangerous. Fingerprinting at Seabrook was a common practice for the populations that worked there. Fingerprinting not only identified the laborers at Seabrook, but also acted as a mode of surveillance that inherently gave the corporation power over employees.

Publicized recitations of the pledge of allegiance represent another way that Seabrook Farms propagandized and enforced patriotism upon the people that were there. The pledge of allegiance (a daily practice in schools), served to essentially indoctrinate the captive populations into being "model" Americans and called upon them to perform their loyalty-so as to refute that their ancestry was a barrier to the American way of life. Enforced patriotism "naturalized" Japanese Americans who were already citizens.

This enforced patriotism delegated responsibility from the U.S. government to Seabrook, and down through its employees. In context, enforced patriotism symbolizes the corporate production motives to increase output, while maintaining the company's reputation as place where suspect laborers could be made loyal. At Seabrook, Fuju Sasaki served as an honorary "Mayor," representing the interests of the residents to the company. This position seems to have carried little in the way of real power, but held important cultural symbolism, as if American institutional power (corporate and governmental) could be shared with workers from the community. The enforced patriotism was delegated and sovereign responsibility over the loyalty of populations at Seabrook was dispersed from the top down. The Japanese American Citizens League's Seabrook chapter, for instance, is shown helping European immigrants with citizenship papers, signifying a completed circle in respect to the delegation of power, surveillance, and enforcement of patriotism.

Seabrook Farms represented secured accommodations, and guaranteed that displaced populations would be spared the open discrimination and bigotry they might encounter from the general public. But the propagandizing of life at Seabrook created an image of happiness and security that carried with it complicated cultural and political undertones, reflecting the attitudes of the U.S. government and C.F. Seabrook and his company to project an alternative narrative of how American values could be safely transmitted.

A displaced European refugee is fingerprinted at Seabrook Farms. Concerns over Communism in the late 1940s and 1950s made documenting those fleeing Eastern Europe a priority.
Credit: "Being fingerprinted at Seabrook Farms (Image 3 of 3)," 1950, Seabrook Educational and Cultural Center, Rutgers University Community Repository Collection.
"Mayor" Saski, Harry Ogata, and Herbert Brauer lead Seabrook residents in the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.
Credit: "Pledge of Allegiance," 1950-1959, Seabrook Educational and Cultural Center, Rutgers University Community Repository Collection.
At Seabrook Farms, Japanese Americans helped file and register citizenship papers for European immigrants.
Credit: "JACL helping Europeans with citizenship papers," 1940-1949, Seabrook Educational and Cultural Center, Rutgers University Community Repository Collection.