Jitsuichi Masuoka

Name Jitsuichi Masuoka
Born December 17 1903
Died August 31 2004
Birth Location Honolulu, Hawai'i
Generational Identifier


Sociologist who studied race relations and taught at Fisk University, an African American institution in Tennessee.

Early Life

Jitsuichi Masuoka (1903–2004) was born in Yamamoto Mura, Japan (today part of Gion Machi, a suburb of Hiroshima). His father Yoshizo Masuoka, who had gone to Hawai'i in his youth to work on a plantation, had returned and bought a rice farm with his savings. Jitsuichi was the seventh of eight surviving children. Mrs. Masuoka died when Jitsuichi was only three years old. He and his youngest brother were raised by their grandmother until her death five years later. In 1913 Yoshizo Masuoka returned to Hawai'i, where his two eldest sons were already living. With their help he proceeded gradually to bring over the rest of the family. Jitsuichi arrived in Hawai'i in April 1917, at the age of thirteen. The family settled on a plantation at Pu'unene, on the island of Maui. For a time Jitsuichi attended public school, despite a lack of English fluency. However, at age fifteen he was sent out to work in order to repay his eldest brother for his passage to Hawai'i. He spent a few months as a field hand, then worked as a stable hand and carpenter.

During this time, Masuoka converted to Christianity and began attending a Japanese Congregational Church. He studied English with a church leader, Mrs. Tsuda, who persuaded the family to support him in further studies. After attending the Lahainaluna school, an interracial boarding school, he enrolled at Maui High School, commuting daily from his brother's house in Pu'unene. During his high school years Masuoka supported himself by making deliveries for a Japanese schoolteacher who ran a private post office.

While Masuoka was in high school, one of his teachers, Mrs. Esther French, encouraged him to attend her alma mater, the College of Emporia. In 1925, aged 21, Masuoka enrolled there, majoring in sociology and economics. Even before he arrived in Kansas, he advertised in a local newspaper for a situation as a houseboy or chauffeur, describing himself as "[S]trong, husky, not brilliant, but earnest, ambitious and sincere. Speaks English imperfectly..." He later recalled that he had little time to study because he worked full-time as a busboy in a local restaurant. However, he not only excelled in his courses, but was elected president of the Cosmopolitan Cub, a student group. In 1928, he was invited to lecture in nearby Hartford, Kansas, at a reception marking a touring exhibition of Japanese dolls. After graduation from Emporia in 1928, he enrolled as a graduate student in sociology at University of Kansas. During this time, he visited Ottawa University to attend a Christian World Education Conference, and was invited to address the journalism students on international relations. In his speech, he criticized the popular press for sensationalism and for fueling racial antagonism.

Early Academic Career

While in Kansas, Masuoka devoted himself to studying race relations and the role of minority groups. He undertook a thesis, "Race Attitudes of the Japanese People in Hawaii: A Study in Social Distance." In it, he tried to explore why there was less intergroup prejudice in Hawai'i. He returned to Hawai'i in June 1929 to collect data. Masuoka worked in a pineapple canning firm during the day and performed research interviews at night, interviewing Issei and Nisei in English and Japanese on their attitudes regarding members of diverse other racial/ethnic groups. Rather than returning to Kansas, he enrolled at University of Hawai'i, where he studied with Romanzo Adams. In 1930 he was hired by professor W.C. Coale to do interviews for a study sponsored by the U.S. Office of Education on teaching English to bilingual children in Hawai'i. The next year Masuoka took a job as secretary for Fred Hulse, a Harvard graduate student studying Japanese anthropometry for an anthropological study on racial mixing. [1]

During this time, Masuoka first met the renowned sociologist Robert E. Park, who was a visiting researcher at UH. His discussions with Park not only led him to change his research questionnaire but to adopt Park's approach to race relations. In 1931, after completing his M.A. thesis, Masuoka met the sociologist Dr. Edward Byron Reuter, Park's former student, who was likewise serving as visiting researcher at UH. Reuter invited Masuoka to study with him. Thus, in fall 1932 Masuoka moved to the University of Iowa to pursue his doctorate. In addition to holding a graduate fellowship, he earned money by working in an off-campus restaurant. In 1934 he returned to Puunene. He spent three years in Hawai'i collecting material for his dissertation on "The Westernization of the Japanese Family in Hawaii."

Meanwhile, he began to conduct and disseminate his research—Masuoka was among the first ethnic Japanese sociologists to publish scholarly articles about Japanese Americans in mainstream journals. His first article, on the language of Japanese American children in Honolulu which grew out of his UH research study, was featured in 1935 in Proceedings of the Hawaiian Academy of Science . This was followed by several more articles based on his Hawai'i research published in various sociological journals. In 1938, he returned to the University of Iowa to complete his dissertation, and in 1940 he received his Ph.D. Without easy prospects of professional employment, he remained in Ames an additional year, during which he attended journalism classes and pondered a career as a newspaperman.

At Fisk University

Following the onset of World War II Masuoka moved to Nashville, Tennessee, to serve as chauffeur/personal assistant to the now elderly Park, who had by then retired from the University of Chicago and was teaching at Fisk University, a historically black college. Masuoka remained with Park until the sociologist's death in 1944. Meanwhile, in early 1943 Masuoka was hired by Fisk President Charles S. Johnson as teacher and researcher in the Department of Social Sciences. He served as coeditor with Johnson and with Ophelia Settle Egypt of the book The Unwritten History of Slavery (1945), based on a collection of oral histories of ex-slaves conducted in 1930-31. Masuoka edited the interview transcripts and prepared them for the publication. During this period, he met the sociologist Edna Cooper, a graduate student at University of North Carolina. The two married and in succeeding years had multiple children.

Masuoka resumed his active publishing career. Within the five years following his arrival at Fisk, he published half a dozen articles in academic journals, some based on his dissertation and others on broader race relations topics In 1946, in collaboration with Charles S. Johnson, he put out a book-length collection, Racial Attitudes . He also authored "Basic Problems of Asia and Democratic Education," which was featured in Harvard Educational Review (1947). He also published multiple book reviews.

In 1948 Masuoka was promoted to associate professor of sociology at Fisk University. Although he remained at Fisk for twenty-five years, his subsequent career there remains somewhat obscure. He spent a year as a visiting professor at University of Michigan in 1950, following which he became Sociology Department chair. He later taught at Luther College, and Tennessee State University. In 1959, Masuoka won a Fulbright exchange grant, and spent the year lecturing in Japan. After returning, he and his wife Edna Cooper Masuoka collaborated on the article, "Role Conflicts in the Modern Japanese Family."

In contrast with his prodigious prewar and wartime output, he produced few original articles. Instead, he devoted himself to preserving the memory of Robert Park. Masuoka served as a coeditor of the 3-volume Collected Papers of Robert Ezra Park, and in 1961 he and his collaborator Preston Valien coedited a festschrift volume for Park, Race Relations: Problems and Theory ; Masuoka's contribution to the latter was a study of the effects of colonialism and urbanism, with particular reference to Africa. Apart from a handful of book reviews, Masuoka had little to say publicly about Japanese Americans during these years. Rather, the writing he produced centered on African Americans in the South, and was heavily informed by his presence at Fisk and by the Civil Rights movement.

He died in 2004, aged 100 years.

Authored by Greg Robinson , Université du Québec À Montréal

For More Information

Masuoka, Jitsuichi. "Personal Experience and Race Relations." Unpublished( ?) essay (ca. 1965), collection of Masuoka family.

Yu, Henry. Thinking Orientals: Migration, Contact, and Exoticism in Modern America . New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Lee, Shelley Sang-Hae, and Rick Baldoz. "'A Fascinating Interracial Experiment Station': Remapping the Orient-Occident Divide in Hawai'i." American Studies 49.3-4 (Fall Winter 2008):87-109.

Publications by Masuoka

"Race Attitudes of the Japanese People in Hawaii: A Study in Social Distance." M.A. thesis, University of Hawaii, 1931.

"Some Factors Influencing the Development of Language in Preschool Bilingual Children of Japanese Ancestry in Honolulu." Proceedings of the Hawaiian Academy of Science , Tenth Annual Meeting, Honolulu, 1935. Bernice P. Bishop Museum, Special Publications 26 (1935): 14–15.

"Race Preference in Hawaii." American Journal of Sociology 41.5 (Mar. 1936): 635–41.

"Changing Moral Bases of the Japanese Family in Hawaii." Sociology and Social Research 21.2 (Nov.-Dec. 1936): 158–69.

"A Sociological Study of the Standard of Living." Social Forces 15.2 (Dec. 1936): 262–67.

"The Japanese Patriarch in Hawaii." Social Forces 17.2 (Dec. 1938): 240–48.

"The Westernization of the Japanese Family in Hawaii." Ph.D. dissertation, University of Iowa, 1940.

"The Life Cycle of an Immigrant Institution in Hawaii: The Family." Social Forces 23.1 (Oct. 1944): 60–64.

"Race and Culture Contacts in the Emporium." American Journal of Sociology 50.3 (Nov. 1944): 199–204.

Egypt, Ophelia Settle, Jitsuichi Masuoka, and Charles S. Johnson, eds. The Unwritten History of Slavery: Autobiographical Accounts of Negro Ex-Slaves . Nashville, Tenn.: Social Science Institute, Fisk University, 1945.

"The Hybrid and the Social Process." Phylon 6.4 (1945): 327–36.

"Changing Food Habits of the Japanese in Hawaii." American Sociological Review 10.6 (Dec. 1945): 759–65.

and Charles S. Johnson. Racial Attitudes . Social Science Source Documents, No. 3. Nashville, Tenn.: Fisk University, Social Science Institute, 1946.

"Racial Symbiosis and Cultural Frontiers: A Frame of Reference." Social Forces 24.3 (Mar. 1946): 348–53.

"Race Relations and Nisei Problems." Sociology and Social Research 30 (July 1946): 452–59.

"Can Progress in Race Relations Be Measured?" Social Forces 25.2 (Dec. 1946): 211–17.

"Basic Problems of Asia and Democratic Education." The Harvard Educational Review

"The Changing Standard of Living—A Study in Acculturation." Social Forces 26.2 (Dec. 1947): 181–89.

"The City and Racial Adjustment—A Definition and Hypothesis." Social Forces 27.1 (Oct. 1948): 37–41.

and Preston Valien. "A Memorandum on Social Consequences of Racial Residential Segregation." Nashville, Ten.: Department of Social Sciences, Fisk University, 1956.

and Preston Valien, eds. Race Relations: Problems and Theory—Essays in Honor of Robert E. Park . Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1961.

Masuoka, Edna Cooper, Jitsuichi Masuoka, and Nozomu Kawamura. "Role Conflicts in the Modern Japanese Family." Social Forces 41.1 (Oct. 1962): 1–6.

Reuter, Edward Byron. Revised and with introduction by Jitsuichi Masuoka. The Amercian Race Problem . New York: Crowell, 1970.


  1. Warwick Anderson, "Racial Hybridity, Physical Anthropology, and Human Biology in the Colonial Laboratories of the United States," Current Anthropology 53.S5 (Oct. 2012):S95-S107. Sadly, relations between the two were strained—Hulse complained that Masuoka was a straight laced Christian convert who did not smoke, drink, or swear, and was difficult to deal with.

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