Pressured by community outcry, a New Jersey auction house has dropped plans to sell hundreds of artifacts crafted by Japanese Americans while they were incarcerated in internment camps during World War II.
The Japanese American History: NOT for Sale Facebook page has announced that lots 1232-1255, which contain artwork and crafts created in ten different World War II internment camps, will be removed from the Rago auction on Friday. According to a company spokesman, George Takei has agreed to act as an intermediary between the auction house and Japanese American community institutions.
"We have withdrawn the lots from the auction," said Guy Benthin, the phone bidding coordinator for Rago Arts.
When news of the impending auction spread, concerned Japanese American community members launched an online petition calling the auction a "betrayal," and asking Rago to remove the sale of the lots in question.
"A price tag should not be put on our cultural property."
News outlets also started picking up on the controversy over the auction:
Auction of Art Made by Japanese-Americans in Internment Camps Sparks Protest
Auction of Internment Camp Art Sparks Widespread Outrage
Commentary: Incarceration survivors, descendants call for stop of Rago auction
Rago Arts Urged to Delay Auction of Camp Artifacts
Sacramento Families Of Internment Camp Survivors Demand Auction House Cancel Sale Of Art
Auction of WWII internment camp art, mementos sparks outrage
I'm not sure at what point that George Takei got involved -- a Facebook comment reveals the celebrated Star Trek actor/activist is currently in Australia -- but considering that he spent part of his own childhood locked up with his family at Tule Lake, the issue of the auction was probably pretty personal for him.
Uncle George says he'll be issuing a formal statement later. More updates to come...