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Beloved San Diego librarian becomes focus of new art exhibit

Clara Breed fought against WWII Japanese Internment
Posted at 5:13 PM, Sep 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-17 21:56:52-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A former San Diego librarian, who fought against World War II Japanese Internment, is the star of a new art exhibition opening at the San Diego Library on Saturday.

Clara Breed was an elegant and poised librarian who was named San Diego's "Woman of the Year" in 1955. She also had a feisty side.

"She was a little rebellious," current Library Director Misty Jones said.

Clara Breed held Jones' position for more than twenty years, decades ago. She is the focus of a new art exhibit at the San Diego Central Library, called "The Rebellious Miss Breed." Her claim to fame, among many things, is fighting social injustice.

RELATED: San Diego librarian's letters give hope during World War II Japanese internment

"She didn't see different races. She saw children," Jones said.

When Executive Order 9066 forced 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans into desolate internment camps, Breed published articles voicing her disgust of the unlawful imprisonment.

"Even though she couldn't keep them from going to the Internment camps, she could do something for them," Jones said. That something meant everything to the children behind barbed wire.

From 1942 to 1946, Breed sent them books, trinkets and started a letter-writing campaign.

"She wanted to make sure that they knew that they were not forgotten by her," Jones said. "That they knew that they were special and that they mattered."

The exhibit has replicas of more than 250 letters, Breed's culturally diverse book collection, and some gifts she received from the children, like a handmade name tag from Tetsuzo Hirasaki.

"He [Hirasaki] actually carved this for Clara Breed with a bedspring and gave it to her as a gift, and it sat on her desk for 15 years," Bonnie Domingos, Arts and Cultural Exhibitions manager, said.

Though much of Clara Breed's advocacy happened around World War II, Jones believes that we can learn so much from her and her spirit even today.

"What we're seeing around the [Mexican] border, and with now with Afghanistan and refugees, we really wanted to bring attention to the advocacy and the idea of inclusivity," Jones said.

"The Rebellious Miss Breed" program also includes a series of special film screenings and book discussions that go until January.