Panel Discussion Re-examines the Massie Case and its Relevance in Modern Day Hawai‘i

Wednesday, October 21, 2009 (All day)

HONOLULU—To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Joseph Kahahawai, the Honolulu Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League, the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaiʻi, and the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Office of Multicultural Student Services, present a panel discussion titled Hoomanao (Remember): The Massie Case and Injustice, Then and Now. The event will be held on Wednesday, October 21; from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Architecture Auditorium (off University Avenue). Admission is free. For more information, call the JCCH at (808) 945-7633, email or go to

A nationwide sensation in 1931–32, the so-called Massie Case began with accusations of rape by a European American naval wife named Thalia Fortescue Massie against five local young men: Hawaiians Ben Ahakuelo and Joseph Kahahawai, Japanese Horace Ida and David Takai, and Chinese-Hawaiian Henry Chang. Taking place amidst a backdrop of racial turmoil, their trial ended in mistrial when the jury was unable to reach a verdict. Within a week, vigilantes kidnapped Ida until he pretended to be unconscious. A month later, Massie's husband Tommy and mother Grace Fortescue were among a group who murdered Kahahawai in what was soon dubbed as an “honor killing.” Found guilty of manslaughter, the defendants were sentenced to ten years of hard labor. Under pressure from the U.S. Navy and federal government, Governor Lawrence Judd commuted the sentence to one hour spent over drinks in his office.

What are we to make of this case nearly 80 years later? A distinguished panel will re-examine the case and its aftermath as well as its echoes in 2009. The panelists will include RaeDeen Keahiolalo-Karasuda, Ph.D., Research Analyst, Kamehameha Schools; John Rosa,
Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of History, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa; Carrie Ann
Shirota, J.D., Soros Justice Fellow ‟09; and David Stannard, Ph.D., Professor, American Studies,
University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and author of Honor Killing: How the Infamous “Massie Affair”
Transformed Hawaiʻi.

“The 100th anniversary of Joseph Kahahawai's birth, as well as the 50th anniversary of statehood seemed like a good time to look at the Massie Case again,” said Shawn Benton, president of the Honolulu chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League. “Though the case is well known to many older people, we‟ve found that many younger people don‟t know about it,” she added. “We hope this panel will link this history with things going on today.”

This event is co-sponsored by the African American Lawyers Association of Hawaiʻi; American Civil Liberties Union of Hawai‘i; American Friends Service Committee - Hawai'i; Community Alliance on Prisons; Hawai‘i Filipino Lawyers Association; Hawai‘i People’s Fund; Hawai‘i Women Lawyers; Ka Huli Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa William S. Richardson School of Law; Imanaka Kudo & Fujimoto; National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, Hawai‘i Chapter; Native Hawaiian Bar Association; Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Honolulu-Hawaiʻi Branch; Office of Hawaiian Affairs; University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Hawai‘inuiakea School of Hawaiian Knowledge; and University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Kamakuokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies. This event is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served. Parking is available on campus for $5.

The Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaiʻi (JCCH), a non-profit organization, strives to share the history, heritage and culture of the evolving Japanese American experience in Hawaiʻi. Located in Mōʻiliʻili, the JCCH features a Community and Historical Gallery, Resource Center, Kenshikan martial arts dōjō, Seikōan Japanese teahouse and Gift Shop. For more information call Brian Niiya at (808) 945-7633, ext. 32, email or visit