Abstract: This paper examines the experiences of African American women who were stationed in various parts of mainland Japan under U.S. military occupation from 1945 to 1952 as major actors in shaping the postwar U.S.-Japanese relationship. It argues that African American women in Japan defined, asserted, and performed alternative racial identities, gender roles, and class positions to achieve their own empowerment within the "trans-Pacific" boundaries they encountered as "occupiers," as well as racial and gender minorities. Regardless of their social backgrounds in the U.S., African American women were in privileged positions that held considerable power and prerogative vis-à-vis Japanese citizens as members of the U.S. occupation forces. Among them, those in civilian duty greatly advanced their rank within the U.S. Army and enjoyed luxurious lifestyles with political and economic privilege enough to hire Japanese maids and gain access to extensive leisure and shopping activities. African American women developed an appreciation for interracialism and internationalism through their daily encounters with Japanese people, and their exchanges with white Americans as well, in the integrated and multiracial setting of Japan. Moreover, they faced and resisted racism and sexism within the U.S. Army and from the patriarchal sector of the African American community in Japan.
Black Women, Gender & Families – University of Illinois Press
Published: Apr 26, 2012