Because our classes let out at the beginning of May, ISU tends to celebrate AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) History Month a month early.
Something I’ve noticed about our heritage months posts, which center the histories of specific racial or ethnic communities, is that they tend to front-end very recent history. This makes sense from an archival stand-point, because the records we have preserved for these communities don’t always go back very far. But, sadly, the archival gaps perpetuate an illusion that non-white students were not always present on the ISU campus.
But this was not true! We have photographic evidence to the contrary — at least, we have some senior portraits in the old Bomb Yearbooks. The real issue is that we don’t usually have much documentation beyond these photos, or even about the people in them, and that, if we do, it’s not always clear where this documentation might live. This is why these pictures tend not to be brought forward all that much. We don’t know the story behind them. As archival records, they just exist.
But they do exist.
Here, then, is a sampling of 1940s (decade chosen somewhat at random) yearbook portraits of students whom I believe — based, unfortunately, solely on appearance and name — to be AAPI, along with at least one potentially South Asian/Middle Eastern student. My hope is that someday all of our students will be able to see themselves in Iowa State history very readily, without first needing to pour through tomes of records in order to find a face that looks like theirs. But we are still working on that goal.
As can be seen on his yearbook page below, Tanabe was from Poctello, Idaho and completed a B.S. in Dairy Husbandry.
Not all yearbooks give detailed information on graduating seniors, but, because of the war, classes of the early 1940s were relatively small, so this year’s yearbook made an exception. Woo’s hometown, area of study, undergraduate college, and some of his I.S.C. activities are listed below.
For those students whose yearbook pages were less helpful, I was not, unfortunately, able to do any external research at this time. But, if you are interested in learning more about their stories, feel free to use my post as a jumping-off point!
Another important thing to note is that, because these portraits feature only graduating seniors, and only those who chose to have their pictures taken, it is likely that there were more AAPI students on campus at this time. It is also very possible that I missed people, misidentified people’s ethnicit(y/ies), or both. I did not do extensive research on any of these students, and, because yearbook portraits from this era are black and white and very low resolution, I omitted several ethnically-ambiguous individuals who had German or Anglo-Saxon last names (which might have meant they were multi-racial, bore anglicized family names, were white-passing, were in fact white, or any other number of things). As such, I encourage you to come look at the yearbooks yourself. They are available both in the SCUA reading room and via our digital collections online.
If you happen across additional information (or additions or corrections!) about any of the individuals featured above, feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will update the post. Also, if you decide to do further research on former students who have peaked your interest, please let us know what you find out about them! We are always interested in learning more about Iowa State alumni.