Over the last month, I’ve logged some serious mileage across California for a story about race and the national parks that was published on Sunday. It explores the ways in which the National Park Service, a federal agency originally charged with protecting wilderness, has come to conserve places that have been the sites of both contentious and inspiring incidents related to race in American history.
As part of the assignment, I toured the Port Chicago Naval Magazine outside San Francisco and sat next to the graves of labor activists Cesar and Helen Chavez in the bucolic Tehachapi Mountains outside Bakersfield. I visited the sites of the former Japanese American internment camps at Tulelake and Manzanar.
On one of those journeys, I casually posted a photograph of an old theater on Tulelake’s main street on social media. My pal Nate Chinen, a New York-based jazz writer whose father was Japanese American, left me a comment: “This is the town where my father spent his first four years, in internment.”
When I saw it, my heart sank.