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Guide to the Guide to the Donald H. Estes Papers
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Biography / Administrative History
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms
  • Related Material
  • Separated Material

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Donald Estes papers
    Dates: 1887-2005
    Bulk Dates: 1935-1995
    Collection number: MSS-006
    Creator: Estes, Donald, 1936-2005
    Collection Size: 6 linear feet
    Repository: Japanese American Historical Society of San Diego.
    San Diego, California 92162-0988
    Abstract: Donald H. Estes (1936-2005) was a San Diego based historian and educator who wrote and taught about the Japanese American experience in Southern California and the nation. The bulk of his Papers contain his research files for his many books and articles, his writings, and the the sources he collected from the Japanese American community in order to document their internment during World War II. Other papers include Issei and Nisei oral history interview transcripts, papers reflecting Estes' service to the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), research and documentation of California's Alien Land Laws, and a range of unique primary source materials pertinent to the study of Japanese and Japanese Americans in San Diego and California.
    Physical location: 10463 Austin Dr # F, Spring Valley, CA 91978
    Languages: Languages represented in the collection: English


    The collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    The library can only claim physical ownership of the collection. Users are responsible for satisfying any claimants of literary property.

    Preferred Citation

    Donald Estes papers, MSS-006. Courtesy of the Japanese American Historical Society of San Diego.

    Acquisition Information

    The Papers were donated by Carol Estes in 2005.

    Biography / Administrative History

    Donald Hamilton Estes was born in Nebraska in 1936. He and his family moved to the San Diego North Park neighborhood in 1939. He entered San Diego City College in 1954, and completed BA and Masters degrees from San Diego State University by 1966.
    In 1960, Estes began teaching Advanced History and Government at La Jolla High School, leaving the school in 1967 to become Professor of History and Political Science at San Diego City College. From 1969 to 1973 he also served as Adjunct Professor of Education at the University of California at San Diego, and held a similar position at San Diego State University during 1974-1975. Also during the 1970s, Estes performed curriculum development work for the California Department of Education and served as a Fellowships Program Evaluator for the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 1986 San Diego City College awarded Estes the Golden Apple Award for Outstanding Teaching. He retired from San Diego City College in 2003.
    Estes sat on the Board of the San Diego Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League from 1967 on, and served twice as president. He was a founding member of the Japanese American Historical Society of San Diego (JAHSSD) and served that organization as historian, curator and in other significant capacities. Estes was among the first historians to serve on the Scholarly Advisory Board of the Japanese American National Museum beginning in 1989. Estes' oral history interviews and research produced six books, published between 1971 and 1996. He also authored numerous scholarly articles, many published in the Journal of San Diego History. Estes also curated exhibitions and served as adviser or director of several films and video productions. At the time of his death, Estes was working on an extensive history of the Japanese in America.
    According to Ben Segawa, founding president and executive director of the Japanese American Historical Society of San Diego, Estes was the acknowledged expert on the history of our community, the heart and soul of our organization. He was known as an inspiring teacher and in his scholarly pursuits, addressed what he called a natural void that was waiting to be filled. Estes both collected and generated significant materials that would otherwise not be available for research today. He died on May 7, 2005 at the age of 68.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Donald Estes Papers comprise his professional research, writings and teaching materials as well as the primary source materials he collected for his study of the Japanese American experience with emphasis on San Diego County. Primarily the Papers reflect his work as an educator and scholar, but also as a leader within the Japanese American community during the late 1960s through 2005. The Papers represent an important resource for understanding Estes and his passion for and contributions to the study of Japanese Americans. Most apparently, they are a comprehensive resource for students and scholars of the internment, resettlement and redress experiences of San Diego Japanese Americans, and a land mine resource for genealogists of the region. Perhaps most unique to the collection are the primary source materials generated and collected by Estes over a period of more than thirty years. Estes conducted more than 100 oral history interviews and also made possible the English translation of a number of accounts of San Diego history in Japanese. Materials collected from San Diego Japanese American community members and others include personal diaries and autobiographical writings, and significant internment camp records including rosters, newspapers, poetry, art and ephemera. Estes also collected research materials from other archives including local, state and federal records salient to the internment and its aftermath. Related to Estes career as educator are the research guides and curriculum development materials he compiled, collected and wrote. In addition to internment, topics well covered by the Papers include alien land laws of California, California census and demographics statistics, San Diego County restrictive housing practices, the San Diego fishing industry, Japanese Americans in the arts, and the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park, San Diego. The Papers contain minimal personal material reflecting Estes' private life.


    The collection is organized into seven series: Series 1. Alphabetical Subject Files, 1887-2005 (bulk, 1973-2004). 12 document boxes. Series 2. Issei Nisei Interviews, 1909-2005 (bulk, 1971-2004). 4 document boxes. Series 3. Japanese American Citizens League, 1969-1998 (bulk, 1970-1974), 2 document boxes. Series 4. Japanese in San Diego Primary Source Files, 1887-1977, 1 document box. Series 5. World War II Internment, 1935-1948, 5 document boxes. Series 6. Newspaper Clipping Files, ca. 1960-2004, 1 document box. Series 7. California Alien Land Laws, 1937-1994, 1 document box. The collection is arranged to the folder level.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    Breed, Clara E. (Clara Estelle), 1906-1994
    Estes, Donald, 1936-2005
    California--Alien Land Act of 1913
    Japanese American Citizens' League
    Poston Relocations Center (Ariz.)
    World War, 1939-1945--Japanese Americans
    Japanese Americans--Evacuation and relocation, 1942-1945
    Japanese Americans--Evacuation and relocation, 1942-1945--Newspapers
    Japanese Americans--Evacuation and relocation, 1942-1945--Poetry
    Japanese Americans--Evacuation and relocation, 1942-1945--Sources
    Japanese Americans--California--San Diego
    Japanese Americans--California--Interviews
    Fishing industry--California--San Diego--History
    Japanese American business enterprises--California--San Diego
    Japanese Americans--California--San Diego--Directories
    Japanese Americans--Study and teaching

    Related Material

    Processing of related collections is in progress. These include Estes' scholarly books and the thousands of photographs and hundreds of artifacts he collected on behalf of the Japanese American Historical Society of San Diego.

    Separated Material

    REgenerations oral history project files have been transferred to the Institutional Archives of the Japanese American Historical Society of San Diego.