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Recruiting and Housing Paroled Internees

Recruiting and Housing Paroled Internees

Seabrook Farms took to recruitment in the camps with vigor, orchestrating a promotional campaign that included posters, pamphlets, and ringing endorsements from internees already relocated. At one point Seabrook even suggested that work release to the company was an alternative to military enlistment, since it held government contracts – a false statement that briefly raised the ire of the federal government. Because the WRA demanded comprehensive oversight over relocation, supervised release carved out new jobs that relocatees themselves had to perform, such as providing the WRA with detailed accounts of the working and housing conditions at Seabrook.

To internees considering parole options, one of the major attractions of Seabrook Farms was the availability of guaranteed housing. Internees who went to cities like Chicago and Minneapolis, which were also major destinations for released laborers, encountered an incredibly tight housing market and landlords who refused to rent to them (as did black migrant workers moving to these cities to work in wartime industries). Seabrook Farms was even more unique in its willingness to hire and house families as units. In order to solve the controversies concerning the deplorable living conditions in the migrant labor camps, in 1943 the Federal Public Housing Authority leased 48 acres from the company and built a complex of 35 buildings, which would open in 1944. The new facility included a childcare center and modern cafeteria, the types of amenities that had been promised to migrant laborers, but would be utilized primarily by relocated Issei and Nisei families. In 1946, the government transferred management of the complex to Seabrook as a leased property. C.F. Seabrook’s grandson John Seabrook would note in The New Yorker, “My grandfather built ‘ethnic villages’ for different groups and this collection of villages became Seabrook.” This quaint description elides the ways in which racial segregation more formally dictated where workers and their families lived at Seabrook Farms.

When the federal housing proved insufficient in respect to accommodating all of the paroled internees who continued to come to Seabrook, the company undertook the construction of rental properties in Hoover Village and then Hoover Village Annex. The developments consisted of prefabricated 16 x 48 foot wooden houses, each containing three rooms. Despite the newness of these structures, and the relative improvement they represented, the realities of lodging at Seabrook often fell short of the recruitment promises made by management. Japanese American resident Fusay Kazaoka compared Seabrook’s accommodations to those provided at the internment camp in Poston, Arizona, stating they were “the same living quarters we had in camp...I remember having no privacy.” The American Civil Liberties Union, after learning of the large number of parolees being concentrated at Seabrook, worried that the company’s hiring program would simply reproduce the experience of internment, and contravened the WRA’s policy of “spreading Japanese-Americans around as much as possible.” After the war ended and Executive Order 9066 was rescinded, Issei and Nisei residents became subject to the same precariousness that governed all renters of company housing. A 1950 edition of Pacific Citizen, the newspaper published by the Japanese American Citizens League, reported that Seabrook had served mass eviction notices to seventy Japanese residents for “reasons of administrative efficiency” arising from an “undue ratio of dependents to employees.” The League and the union, however, were able to get the company back down. Some families responded to the incident by seeking out housing in Bridgeton and other nearby areas where they were not subject to the company’s rules.

500 Satisfied Issei and Nisei Already Employed

Relocation and supervised work was implemented gradually by the WRA, beginning in January 1943. This poster touts Seabrook Farms' success in attracting and retaining released internees, to convince additional laborers to join them. Records of the War Relocation Authority, Record Group 210, National Archives Building, Washington, D.C.

Year Around Work For Men and Women

Written in both Japanese and English, this poster advertises the more permanent status of positions at Seabrook Farms, which, due to the continual processing of warehoused frozen vegetable, was not seasonal like other agricultural jobs. Records of the War Relocation Authority, Record Group 210, National Archives Building, Washington, D.C.

Work and Live at Deerfield

A pamphlet promotes Seabrook's new housing, which was built during the war and leased to the company by the Federal Public Housing Authority. Records of the War Relocation Authority, Record Group 210, National Archives Building, Washington, D.C.

Evacuee children in Seabrook village 1944

Family housing built by the Federal Public Housing Authority. Single men and women were assigned to the dormitories that the government built. Seabrook Educational and Cultural Center, New Jersey Digital Highway

USIS Video: "Marie takes her son to childcare"

This clip was produced as part of a propaganda film that the United States Information Service showed in Japan after the war, in an attempt to alleviate the negative publicity relocation and internment had caused, and to showcase the treatment of Issei and Nisei sent to Seabrook Farms. Residents were enlisted as actors: the woman in the video is not the actual mother of the child. The homes shown in the video were family housing units built by the federal government. The clip highlights child care as one of the benefits that Seabrook Farms provided. United States State Department, United States Information Service.

People in Hoover Village

The structures of Hoover Village were hastily assembled after the federal housing reached capacity. Although these homes came equipped with indoor plumbing, in comparison to the migrant labor camps, bathrooms did not have doors and the walls did not have adequate insulation from the snowy winters of New Jersey. Paroled internees sometimes questioned whether these new accommodations represented an improvement over the detention camps. Seabrook Educational and Cultural Center, New Jersey Digital Highway

Getting bed ready for nap-time

Children prepare for naptime at Seabrook Child Care Center, in a photo take in the postwar period. Prior to the opening of the childcare center, married Japanese Americans described being assigned separate twelve hour shifts, so that each parent could take a turn watching their children when they were not on the clock. Seabrook Educational and Cultural Center, New Jersey Digital Highway

Letter from the American Civil Liberties Union

The Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) contacted the ACLU to express concern that Seabrook Farms might develop into a de facto relocation center if too many Japanese Americans were sent there. Clifford Foster of the ACLU wrote to the WRA to relay their concerns. Records of the War Relocation Authority, Record Group 210, National Archives Building, Washington, D.C.