After Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which effectively relocated all Japanese and Japanese Americans from their West coast homes to internment camps located in U.S. interior. Japanese and Japanese Americans were forced to stay behind barbwire in these internment camps, without due process, for an undisclosed length of time. Boredom was a major issue. Many Japanese Americans started sports clubs that gave them an illusion of freedom since it was something in their lives that they could control.
Seabrook Farms was one of the largest producers of frozen foods during the 1940s and 1950s, and the single largest recipient of released Japanese American and immigrant internees. Japanese and Japanese Americans found themselves leaving internment camps for another type of camp at Seabrook Farms, where the barbwire was exchanged for close surveillance by the company, and internees’ treatment as captive labor. However, Japanese Americans had a constant in their traumatic lives: sports, especially baseball and softball. Seabrook Farms supplied the teams with uniforms as a public relations effort to keep the employees from unrest. In 1948, Seabrook Farms’ traveling softball team won the Cumberland County Softball Championship and received a parade through the town. Sports gave the workers at Seabrook Farms a chance to illustrate their own interests in promoting their talents, prevailing against racism, and developing kinship with fellow laborers.
To visit the online exhibit and learn more about this history, please go to: www.njdigitalhighway.org/exhibits/seabrook_farms