People in Motion (book)

Title People in Motion: The Postwar Adjustment of the Evacuated Japanese Americans
Author Cullum, Robert M.
Original Publisher U.S. Department of the Interior
Original Publication Date 1947
Pages 270
WorldCat Link

Report on the resettlement period produced by the War Agency Liquidation Unit (WALU), a federal agency formed to finish off the work of the War Relocation Authority (WRA) after it shut down in June 1946. Robert M. Cullum presided over a team of field workers who conducted field research in the summer and fall of 1946 both in areas Japanese Americans settled in outside the West Coast and communities in the former restricted area they returned to after 1945. Cullum and Tom Sasaki authored the report, which was released in August 1947.

Report Background

In the WRA's final year, the agency produced a series of ten reports on various aspects of its work. When the WRA shut down in June 1946, one of the tasks left to WALU was to produce one final report on the resettlement of Japanese Americans in the one year plus after the end of the war and the closing of the concentration camps. Robert M. Cullum (1909–2000) was appointed as the director of this resettlement study. A native of Michigan and a graduate of Albion College in Michigan, Cullum had worked for the Farm Security Administration before the war as a labor relations adviser and a social science analyst. He later joined the staff of the WRA, serving as an area supervisor first in New York, then in Cleveland. After his stint with WALU, he served as the executive secretary of the Committee for Equality in Naturalization, a group that worked closely with the Japanese American Citizens League in pursuing legislation that allow Issei the right of naturalization. He later worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. [1]

The stated goal of the study was to "Analyze the effects of the evacuation from the west coast, and to complete the study of the relocation aspects, such as the new distribution of the people, and adjustment problems that relocated people continue to face in order to provide an adequate history of the effects of the evacuation upon the evacuated people and the country." The main study centers were to be Chicago , Denver , Los Angeles , and Seattle, with secondary sites in California's Santa Clara Valley, the Snake River Valley, and Salt Lake City. Additional research in California's San Joaquin and Sacramento Valleys was abandoned due to lack of funds. [2]

Cullum's research team were all men who had prior experience in working with Japanese Americans, with all but one having worked for one of the three social science projects engaged in the study of the wartime incarceration. Tom Sasaki, who did fieldwork in Los Angeles, and Toshio Yatsushiro , who was dispatched to Chicago and Denver and both been on the staff of the Bureau of Sociological Research at Poston. John de Young (Chicago), Asael T. Hansen (Santa Clara Valley), and Elmer Smith (Utah) had all been WRA community analysts . S. Frank Miyamoto , who with Robert O'Brien contributed research on Seattle, had worked for the Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement Study . Each spent between one and four months in their assigned areas. All relied on "intensive interviewing," with the exception of Miyamoto and O'Brien in Seattle, whose research was survey based. [3]

Report Contents and Conclusions

After a brief summary of "relocation" from the concentration camps and some basic demographic information, the core of the book is made up of four chapters examine various aspects of Japanese American life as of early 1947: "Public Acceptance," "Economic Adjustment," "Housing Adjustment," and "Social Adjustment," with the second and fourth making up the vast majority of the book.

The relatively short chapter on "Public Acceptance" cites improved attitudes of the general public towards Japanese Americans, largely crediting the war record of Nisei soldiers , which is noted at length. Much of the rest of the chapter gives a detailed history of the alien land laws , as well as updates on the then current Oyama case and the just concluded rejection by California of Proposition 15 . The lengthy chapter on "Economic Adjustment" looks in detail at both rural and urban areas, with particularly detailed sections on the areas where WALU fieldworkers were stationed. While noting the loss of the prewar agricultural base that largely had sustained the ethnic community and the many more Japanese Americans on public relief, the authors also cite a generally good employment situation, with higher wages and greater opportunities in mainstream business and government, though details differ greatly from place to place. A shorter chapter on "Housing Adjustment" summarizes the situation in various cities, with much attention focused on Los Angeles, which had the worst situation at the time. The lengthy chapter on "Social Adjustment" is largely focused on the issue of self-segregation versus integration, noting the pros and cons of all Japanese American veterans organizations, churches, recreational groups, and the like.

While noting continuing discrimination, the general tone is optimistic, with the a brief conclusion citing the future of Japanese Americans as hinging on two primary factors: "the presence of absence of economic discrimination, and the belief which Americans of Japanese descent come to have about their acceptance in American life."

People in Motion was released in August 1947. Cullum also authored a lengthy summary of the report that ran in the September 1947 issue of Common Ground magazine. In his Pacific Citizen column, Bill Hosokawa called it "interesting and often startling reading," adding that "Nisei would do well to read it, for it will help them understand themselves." Given the relative lack of scholarly literature on the resettlement period, People in Motion continues to be frequently cited by scholars. [4]

Many of the reports filed by the WALU fieldworkers that were used to write People in Motion are available online in "The Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement: A Digital Archive," housed at The Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley.

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho

For More Information

War Agency Liquidation Unit. People in Motion: The Postwar Adjustment of the Evacuated Japanese Americans . Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, [1947].


  1. Katharine Luomala, "Research and the Records of the War Relocation Authority," Applied Anthropology 7.1 (Winter 1948): 23-32; Robert M. Cullum, "People in Motion," Common Ground , Sept. 1947, 61–68, accessed on Feb. 22, 2015 at ; Pacific Citizen , July 27, 1946, 3, accessed on Jan. 12, 2018 at . On Cullum, see Pacific Citizen , Nov. 6, 1948, 8 and Dec. 19, 1952, 24, both accessed on Jan. 12, 2018 at and .
  2. War Agency Liquidation Unit, People in Motion: The Postwar Adjustment of the Evacuated Japanese Americans (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior), 2, 3.
  3. People in Motion , 3.
  4. Pacific Citizen , Aug. 23, 1947, 1 and Bill Hosokawa, "From the Frying Pan," Pacific Citizen , Sept. 13, 1947, 5, both accessed on Jan. 12, 2018 at and .

Last updated Feb. 6, 2024, 3:07 a.m..