David H. French

Name David H. French
Born May 21 1918
Died February 12 1994
Birth Location Oregon

Anthropologist and community analyst at Poston from December 1943 to the camp's closing.

David H. French (1918–94) was born in Oregon on May 21, 1918. He begin his undergraduate studies at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, in 1936 and ended up following a favorite teacher, Morris Opler —who would later become the community analyst at Manzanar —to the Claremont Colleges, graduating with a B.A. degree from Pomona College in 1939 and an M.A. at Claremont Graduate School in 1940. He went to pursue his doctoral studies at Columbia University, working with Ralph Linton and Ruth Benedict, and did fieldwork in 1941–42 at the United Pueblos Agency in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In 1943, he married a fellow graduate student, Kathrine "Kay" Story (1922–2006), with whom he would collaborate on much of his future research. [1]

The War Relocation Authority (WRA) began hiring community analysts for its concentration camps in the spring and summer of 1943, based in part on the model of the Bureau of Sociological Research (BSR) that had been established at the Poston, Arizona, camp when that camp had been run by the Office of Indian Affairs. With the WRA taking control of Poston in 1943, the BSR closed down its operation that summer and fall. To succeed the BSR, the WRA brought in French, who arrived at Poston on December 18, 1943, after a brief orientation with the Community Analysis Section office in Washington, DC. and with former BSR staffers in Chicago. Just twenty-five years old when he began, he was among the youngest of the community analysts. With a small staff of inmate assistants and operating out of a former BSR office in Poston's camp 1, French reported on such key issues as inmate reaction to the reinstitution of the draft for Nisei, the end of the war, and the closing of the camp. [2]

After the war, French finished his Ph.D. dissertation ("Factionalism in Isleta Pueblo," 1949) and joined faculty of Reed College in 1947, where he would remain for the rest of his academic career, except for short stints as a visiting professor. He was known as an expert on Native American ethnobotany, particularly in relation to the Warm Springs people of Oregon. He was also active in the American Anthropological Association, serving on its executive board in the 1960s and receiving a distinguished service award from the organization upon his retirement from Reed in 1988. He passed away in Oregon on February 12, 1994. [3]

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho

For More Information

Ebihara, May. "Death Notices: David H. French." Anthropology Newsletter 35.6 (1994): 71.

French, David H. " War Relocation Authority, Colorado River Relocation Center, Poston, Arizona, Final Report, Community Analysis Section. " November 1, 1945. The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

Lathrop, Stacy. "AAA Bequeathed $79,000." American Anthropological Association news release, n.d. [2006].


  1. Melville J. Herskovits, editor, International Directory of Anthropologists, Third Edition (Washington, D.C.: American Anthropological Association, 1950), 59; May Ebihara, "Death Notices: David H. French," Anthropology Newsletter 35.6 (1994), 71; Stacy Lathrop, "AAA Bequeathed $79,000," American Anthropological Association news release, n.d. [2006], accessed on June 11, 2014.
  2. David H. French, "War Relocation Authority, Colorado River Relocation Center, Poston, Arizona, Final Report, Community Analysis Section," November 1, 1945, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, accessed on June 11, 2014 at http://content.cdlib.org/view?docId=ft1s2003cj&brand=calisphere&doc.view=entire_text ; Brian Masaru Hayashi, Democratizing the Enemy: The Japanese American Internment (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2004).
  3. Ebihara, "Death Notices: David H. French"; Lathrop, "AAA Bequeathed $79,000."

Last updated Jan. 13, 2024, 4:26 a.m..