Chicago, Illinois -- Please join the Eastland Disaster Historical Society on Wednesday, July 15 at 6 p.m. at the Nisei Lounge for the opening of a photo exhibition of Eastland Disaster photos taken by the first Japanese-American photojournalist, Jun Fujita. The launch will be coupled with the release of "The 844" Commemorative Beer.
Jun Fujita was born in 1888 in a village near Hiroshima, Japan. When he was older, Fujita immigrated from Japan to Canada, where he worked odd jobs to save enough money to move to America. He moved to Chicago where he attended and graduated from Wendell Phillips Academy High School, a four-year predominantly African-American public school whose notable alumni included Nat "King" Cole. Following his high school graduation, he studied mathematics at the Armour Institute of Technology, which later became the Illinois Institute of Technology, with plans to become an engineer.
To help pay his way through college, Fujita took a job as the first and only photojournalist at the Chicago Evening Post, which later became the Chicago Daily News. Fujita was an Issei photojournalist, photographer, silent film actor, and published poet in the United States. He was the first Japanese-American photojournalist. Fujita was the only photographer to document the aftermath of the St. Valentine's Day massacre.
Fujita's grand-nephew Graham Lee is writing a biography to honor his grand-uncle's accomplishments. The book is set to publish in 2016. Lee spent the last four years researching Fujita's life, retracing his grand-uncle's footsteps, and creating a story that combines a rich family history with historical and personal photographs. The culmination of his work will be published in the forthcoming biography, Fujita—A Portrait of Jun Fujita: Photographer and Poet. Lee will be on the author panel at the 100th Anniversary Commemoration Weekend "Connecting Families Program" on Saturday, July 25 at the Westin Chicago River North Ballroom.
This launch will also be the first opportunity to taste "The 844," a commemorative beer brewed and bottled to build awareness of the tragedy. While the beer will be available on tap at Chicago-area restaurants and bars, and in liquor stores in bottles, this will be everyone's first opportunity to taste the beer and toast in memory of The 844 who lost their lives in the Eastland Disaster.
The Nisei Lounge (3439 N. Sheffield) provides a unique venue for connecting Jun Fujita’s compelling photography from the Eastland Disaster with the beer. The Nisei Lounge was founded by second generation Japanese immigrants in 1951 to provide a spot for Chicago’s Japanese-American community to socialize over a few drinks. Patrons of the Nisei Lounge over the next few weeks will have two ways to connect with the history of the Eastland Disaster.
Photo courtesy of the Graham and Pamela Lee collection.