By unearthing the stories of its former Japanese American farming community, Crystal Cove Conservancy demonstrates the ongoing relevance of history

Experts, authors, and survivors convene at historic schoolhouse

Newport Coast, CA– Crystal Cove Conservancy premiered the first event of their 2022 Speaker Series on July 15th. Author Janice Munemitsu, California State Parks Historian Blythe Wilson, and special guest Sandra Mendez Duran joined Conservancy CEO Kate Wheeler for a panel discussion. The panel shared the stories of the Japanese American farming communities that lived in Orange County before the U.S. entered World War 2 and the stunning way their lives intersected with activists for school desegregation in 1947. Eighty guests, including former residents Don Miyada and Tak Yamashita, who both lived at Crytal Cove from 1928 to 1942, attended the event which took place in front of the Japanese Language Schoolhouse, a historic structure located in Crystal Cove State Park’s Historic District.

“We are so pleased to have the opportunity to elevate these incredible stories and make them more accessible to the public,” said Wheeler. “This event is only the beginning of our efforts to reinterpret the Schoolhouse. The Conservancy is collaborating with Crystal Cove State Park to develop new exhibits for this space.”

Wilson, who has spent over a decade researching this history, shared archived oral histories and photos, while Munemitsu shared stories from her book, The Kindness of Color. She and Mendez Duran discussed how the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II led directly to the Mendez’ family’s lawsuit against the segregation of Mexican children in Mendez et al v. Westminster, 8 years before Brown vs. Board of Education. (Information on the trial from U.S. Courts educational resources)

The Conservancy’s Speaker Series resumes on August 25, with “Robots in the Wild,” featuring speaker Dr. Magnus Egerstedt, Dean of the Samueli School of Engineering and Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of California, Irvine.

About Crystal Cove Conservancy

Crystal Cove Conservancy works to protect the historic, natural, and cultural resources of Crystal Cove State Park. Our unique public/private partnership with California State Parks means that all revenue raised is reinvested into programs that use the park as an outdoor classroom for STEM education. These programs will cultivate our planet’s next generation of environmental stewards, ensuring that Crystal Cove and places like it live on for generations.



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