Born to Japanese parents in Tacoma, Washington, in 1909, John Maki was adopted as an infant by a white couple and raised on their farm. After receiving both his bachelors (1932) and masters (1936) in English literature at the University of Washington, Maki was persuaded to switch fields to the study of Japan. Following a fellowship from the Japanese government to study in Tokyo in the late 1930s, the war interrupted his plans. After being ordered to internment, he served with the Foreign Broadcast Intelligence Service of the Federal Communications Commission and in psychological warfare planning with the Office of War Information, and after the war, he took a position with the occupation authority, assisting in the drafting of the Japanese Constitution. Returning stateside, he resumed his academic career, earning his doctorate in political science at Harvard in 1948. After eighteen years on the faculty at the University of Washington, Maki moved to UMass in 1966, where he served as chair of the Asian Studies Program and in administrative posts, including as vice dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. In recognition of his efforts to promote relations between the U.S. and Japan, he was awarded the Third Class Order of the Sacred Treasure by the emperor of Japan in 1983. Although he retired from the faculty in 1980, Maki remained active as a scholar until the time of his death in Amherst in December 2006.
The Maki Papers reflect a long career in the study of contemporary Japanese politics and culture. Beginning with his earliest academic work on Japan in the 1930s, the collection documents the range of Maki’s interests, from the origins of Japanese militarism and nationalism to the development of the post-war Constitution and his later studies of William Smith Clark and the long history of Japanese-American relations. The collection includes valuable documents from the early period of the Allied Occupation, including the extensive correspondence with his wife Mary (1946).
John M. Maki (Hiroo Sugiyama) was born to Japanese immigrants on April 19. 1909 in Tacoma, Washington. Three weeks after his birth, his parents gave him to Alexander and Amanda McGilvrey to foster. The McGilvrey’s already had five biological children, all of whom were adults by the time they began to foster John. They legally adopted John in 1919, and at that time formally changed his name to John McGilvrey. John was also called “Johnnie” and sometimes “Jack.”
In 1927 John headed to the University of Washington (UW). It wasn’t really until his college years that he experienced racial discrimination. UW was a land-grant college and as such, required all able-bodied male students to enroll in military training via the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC). When John reported to duty, the commanding officer denied his admittance. Admittedly, John was more relieved at not having to wear the ROTC uniform than annoyed. However, shortly thereafter he had a more significant brush with racial discrimination that had a lasting impact on him. Somewhere in his college application he had indicated that he wanted to major in journalism. During the course or his freshmen year, the Dean of the School of Journalism called him into his office and informed him it was useless to major in journalism, as no American newspaper would ever hire someone who was Japanese. After this conversation, John decided to major in English, and eventually went on to study English Literature as a graduate student. During his second year, the English Department secretary expressed a similar sentiment as the Dean of Journalism and informed John he would never get an appointment to teach English literature, due to the fact he was Japanese. The secretary then asked John to switch from English literature to Japanese literature, and offered him a teaching fellowship in the Department of Oriental Studies. John accepted the offer and began to rigorously study Japan and Japanese literature. While participating in a series of student conferences, John met Mary Yasumura, and in 1936 the pair married. Less than two weeks after the wedding, they moved to Japan for a two-year fellowship that had been awarded to John. While in Japan, they paid specific attention to the role of women, strong presence of the military, and censorship. Mary also studied the art of flower arrangements, tea ceremonies, and Japanese cooking.
John and Mary returned home to Seattle in 1938 and John began his academic career in teaching at UW. Soon after Pearl Harbor, it became clear that the Japanese-American community was in trouble. On May 15, 1942 all people of Japanese descent were ordered to evacuate Seattle, so John and Mary headed to a holding center in Puyallup, Washington. They were only detained for about a month, as John gained clearance to work for the Foreign Broadcast Intelligence Service (FBIS) at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in Washington, D.C. John’s job was to read and analyze the enemy’s propaganda and discuss daily intelligence. John worked with the FCC from June 1942 to June 1943, at which time he was transferred to the Overseas Branch of the Far Eastern Section of the Office of War Information (OWI). His main job was to write directive for short radio broadcasts from San Francisco direct at Japan. In addition to this, he advised how other OWI operations should handle news concerning Japan. During this time John prepared the manuscript for his first book, Japanese Militarism: Its Cause and Cure.
Following the end of the war in August 1945, John applied to the Pentagon for a job in Allied-occupied Japan and received a position with the Government Section in Tokyo. John arrived in Tokyo on February 22, 1946, this time without Mary. While there, he studied the operation of government ministries in Tokyo in order to gain an understanding of how the Japanese government was operating post-war. After completing his study in Tokyo, John returned home and decided to return to academia, so he and Mary relocated to Cambridge and John enrolled in a Ph.D. program in Government at Harvard. John was awarded his doctorate in 1948, after just two years.
He and Mary then returned to UW so that John could resume his teaching career. John and Mary adopted two children: John Alexander and James (Jim) Perry. John was born September 10, 1947, and the Makis adopted him just after his first birthday. Jim was born September 1, 1949 and was adopted by the Makis when he was seven months old. John stayed at UW for 18 years. He taught, researched, published, and took up an interest in academic governance.
In 1965 John was invited to visit UMass Amherst as a possible candidate for head of the newly created program of Asian Studies. After several interviews and two visits the Makis packed up their life in the spring of 1966, so that John could begin his position as chairman of the Program of Asian Studies at UMass that fall. Eventually, John was made Vice Dean of the college. While at UMass, John continued his interest in academic governance. He continued to teach government and political science courses concerning East Asia. John also heavily researched William Smith Clark and, using documents found in the archives at UMass, wrote a biography of William Smith Clark.
Once established at UMass, John took an interest in the upcoming centennial celebration of the founding of Hokkaido University through Clark’s work. Both he and Mary were active participants in the development and planning of gifts for the occasion. The climax of the centennial was the signing of a sister-university agreement between UMass and Hokkaido. At the centennial, John was awarded a Doctor of Laws degree from Hokkaido. John retired from UMass in 1980, but continued to read, research, and write well into his retirement. In 1985 John was awarded the Third Class Order of the Sacred Treasurer by the emperor of Japan. Mary quietly passed away at their Amherst home in 1990. In 1999 John received the UMass Chancellor’s Medal in recognition of his contributions to the campus. John Maki died in 2006.
The collection is divided into eight series: Correspondence; Teaching and Institutional Materials; Research Material; Japanese Internment, War Years, and Allied Occupation; Writings; Slides and Photographic Images; Personal, Biographical, and Family; and Mary Maki. Series 1 contains both personal and professional correspondence. Series 2 contains teaching and institutional materials from his time spent at the University of Washington and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. This includes conference material, lecture outlines, class notes and other course material, student papers and theses, as well as committee meeting notes. Series 3 includes research notes and clippings on various topics, including Japanese politics and William Smith Clark. Series 4 focuses on Maki’s involvement in Internment Camps, War Years, and the Allied Occupation. This includes correspondence between Jack and Mary, as well as government correspondence, maps and photographs of Japan, internment camp newsletters, and research material on Japanese government and Japanese internment. Series 5 contains manuscripts and drafts to articles, books, chapters, translations, and reviews. Series 6 is composed of images of Bonsai shows and the art of flower arrangement, as well as various trips to Japan, and scenes from New England and Seattle. Series 7 includes local newspaper clippings from Amherst, Massachusetts and Seattle, Washington. This series also includes genealogical and other family records. Finally, series 8 is devoted to Mary Maki and her research on Bonsai and flower arrangement. This series includes Mary’s correspondence, some financial records, and records of her various local activities.
Acquired from John Maki, 2006.
Processed by Kristin Van Patten, 2015.
Cite as: John Maki Papers (FS 120). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.
- Clark, William Smith, 1826-1886
- Constitutional law--Japan
- Japan--History--Allied occupation, 1945-1952
- Japan--Politics and government--20th century
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Department of Political Science
- Maki, John M. (John McGilvrey), 1909-