Audio on this page read by Ricky Gene Powell
The Green Book suspended publishing between 1941 and 1946 due to World War II; however, the Polk City Directories for Seattle were still published during that time. The Polk City Directories were alphabetical directories of a city's residents and their addresses; later editions included a 'reverse directory' listing all addresses in a city by block together with the names of their residents.
A comparison between the 1942 edition and the combined 1943-44 edition of the Polk Directories for Seattle offers an illustration of the devastation in the wake of FDR’s Executive Order 9066 and the incarceration of Japanese American people across the West Coast.
The forced removal of Japanese American residents and business owners dispossessed them of their properties and reshaped this neighborhood almost instantaneously. These businesses were all listed in the 1941 Polk City Directory for just the 1200 block of South Jackson and they are all gone from the 1942-43 Polk Directory, leaving a host of vacancies and takeovers in their wake. The first two businesses listed here had operated above the Black & Tan Club at street level for many years.
Some did reestablish themselves in new locations after the war. Chikata Drugs, which ran regular advertisements in the Northwest Enterprise, was located at street level above the Black & Tan Club from the 1920s until Seattle-born pharmacist Jack Chikata was subjected to incarceration. Jack Chikata re-opened his pharmacy by 1947 in a new location at 112 12th Avenue, between Yesler and Fir. Many businesses owners did not reestablish, though, and those who did return faced further discrimination following the war. Some Japanese Americans taken from Seattle never returned after the war.Read More
As one indication of the connections between the neighborhood's African American and Japanese populations, so many Black tenants resided in hotels operated by Japanese American hotel owners that when Japanese Americans were evacuated and their businesses taken over by white 'custodians', a housing crisis was created within the neighborhood's Black community.
In March of 1942, the Northwest Enterprise reported on a 'Notice to Vacate' posted at the Tokiwa hotel which terminated the lease of all tenants in the building. The newspaper noted that, "Co-effective with the order evacuating the Japanese is the unwritten ultimatum of the landlords, lessors, and government, in hotels and apartment houses that no Negroes may be accepted as tenants. While the above notice does not specify any tenant, it is significant that 90% of all are Negroes."
A follow-up article the next month confirmed that an "[a]cute lodging problem faces Negroes in Seattle and Tacoma following evacuation of the Japanese, who operated most of the lower priced hotels and lodging houses, according to Bernard E. Squires, executive secretary of the Urban League, Negro advancement organization. White people who took over hotels and rooming houses from the Japanese have largely refused patronage to Negroes, thus causing eviction of many colored people - purportedly 'to make room for war industry workers'. 'Doubling up in private homes has eased the situation a bit, said Squires, 'but in general the picture is pretty much the same as it was right after the Japanese left.'"
While it is difficult to assess ownership from business names (for example, it may not be obvious to someone perusing the Green Book that the Atlas Hotel was and is Asian American owned) it is likely that the Pacific Coast states were home to more Asian American owned businesses than most of the U.S. Many of these businesses were friendly to Black patrons and actively sought their patronage. In addition to being listed in the Green Book for many years, the Atlas Hotel and Chikata Drugs also placed regular advertisements in Seattle's premier Black owned newspaper of the time, the Northwest Enterprise.
When Noodles Smith sold the Golden West Hotel in 1927, the buyer was the Japanese Hotel Company, which announced that the hotel would be "maintained as a high class hostelry catering to colored patrons." In an interview with Paul de Barros, Black pianist Julian Henson described the relationship between the residents and the hotel operators in the 1930s: "Most of the musicians who lived at the Tokiwa owed them money, but they wouldn't put you out. You could go to these Japanese restaurants and get twenty-cent meals."
These examples illustrate that Japanese American business owners' practice of providing service or even catering to Black patrons were not limited to the inexpensive single-room occupancy hotels. Neighborhood restaurant owners and high-end hotels in Seattle also embraced Black customers who were refused service by white establishments. The dispossession of the Japanese American community in Seattle first and foremost harmed the people who were incarcerated and lost their property, and its secondary impacts harmed Black residents who were displaced from residence in the Chinatown-International District neighborhood.Read More
On March 20, 1942, the Black-owned newspaper The Northwest Enterprise reported that as part of the government's incarceration of Japanese Americans, Japanese business owners were being evicted from hotels and apartments they owned or operated. The white 'custodians' who took over immediately evicted the tenants, many of whom were Black.
The Tazuma Family operated the Tazuma 10-Cent Store at 12th and Jackson, one of the businesses at street level above the Black and Tan Club. Pictured above are Bunshiro and Sawano Tazuma, store owners and parents to several children incluing Yukio, pictured in foreground.
The Tazuma family were subjected to incarceration at Minidoka concentration camp in Idaho. The Tazuma 10-Cent Store closed and was replaced by Kay's 10-Cent Store.
More information about the Tazuma family can be found at Densho Digital Repository, particularly in the Y. Tazuma Collection.
The Densho Digital Repository is a multi-partner initiative of Densho: The Japanese American Legacy Project, and contains oral history interviews, photographs, documents, and other materials relating to the Japanese American experience. Additional information on the project is available at www.densho.org
Image description provided by Densho: This map of Nihonmachi, circa 1939, was drawn by Yukio Tazuma. Tazuma's parents owned the Tazuma Ten-Cent Store at 12th Avenue and Jackson Street before World War II. The map shows the many Japanese-owned businesses between 12th Avenue and Rainier Avenue South (upper Jackson Street).
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