Subversive Historian – 10/29/08

The Lynching of Katsu Goto

One-hundred and nineteen years ago on this day in people’s history, Japanese storekeeper Katsu Goto was lynched in Hawaii. On the morning of October 29th, 1889, the body of Goto was found hanging by a rope from a telephone pole. As one of the “first ship” immigrants from Japan to the island of Hawaii, Goto worked on a sugar plantation before saving enough money to open a general store. Being fluent in both English and Japanese, he never forgot his fellow plantation workers and served as an interpreter and adviser to their labor concerns. His store, which competed with white businesses, also served as an informal meeting place for his community. Evidently, Goto’s activities drew the ire of the white men with plantation connections who lynched him. During the subsequent trial, four suspects in the case were persecuted under “manslaughter” charges and given lenient punishments. Two assailants escaped and another was granted a pardon for the crime.

According to Gaylord Kubota, no mention of the lynching accompanied the obituaries of two of the guilty parties. Is everyone sainted when they die even if they’ve committed devilish acts during their lifetime?

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