Stories and Images of Japanese-American Internment

Historical Background

The historical context leading to Japanese internment can be illustrated in previous policies in the early 20th century toward Japanese immigrants. Despite the fact that a large number of individuals of Japanese origin held citizenship they faced prejudice, which was most prominent in California where a large immigrant population competed for labor with the local population. Some of the discriminatory policies were the separation of Japanese and other students in schools and the Oriental Exclusion Law (1942) that blocked Japanese immigrants from applying for U.S citizenship.

Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, a manifesto was released by the Joint Immigration Committee of the California Legislature released a manifesto to California media outlets arguing for internment of people of Japanese background, claiming that they were loyal subjects of the Japanese Emperor and therefore, not loyal to the United States. This manifesto received a strong backing in California and was later taken to the halls of Washington D.C. Although arguments originally made that this policy was motivated by national security, there is also reason to believe that it was at least in part motivated by prejudices existing before the attack alongside of the paranoia that followed after.

On Febuary,19, 1942, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt authorized Executive Order 9066, which granted certain military commanders to designate ‘exclusion zones’, areas in which, ‘any and all persons may be excluded.’ By the power of this document, all individuals of Japanese ancestry were considered excluded from the pacific coast states of California, Washington, and Oregon, with the exception of those in internment camps. About 110,000 persons of Japanese ancestry were interned on the continental United States. Of those interned, about 63% were American citizens.

Below are additional details and resources about this unusual point in American history including, historical sources, stories, and multimedia.

Living Internment

By following an evacuation notice, individuals were first transported to any of fifteen temporary facilities, which were often converted from fairgrounds and racetracks. These temporary shelters were built hastily and had notably poor facilities. By October 1942, ten Permanent War Relocation Authority (WRA) facilities created, called ‘resettlement communities’. The WRA camps were guarded by military police and had scant accommodations. However, attempts were made to provide for recreational activities to prevent violence in the camps. The following are first-person accounts, historical resources, and multimedia about life in the camps.

  • Gallup Polls: A Comparison of Chinese as well Japanese stereotypes for years of 1942, 1966, 1972

Educational Resources

Below are resources specifically for educations to assist in writing lesson plans and provide multimedia supplemental material for students, learning about Japanese-American internmenment. Lesson plans incorporated below include elementary, middle school, and high school levels.

Government Documents & Court Cases

Below are research oriented resources including data, copies of governmental documents and court cases dealing with the issue of Japanese Internment. The governmental documents follow governmental actions enacting, rescinding, and apologizing for the internment policy. The court case portion includes three major cases regarding the topic.

Government Documents

Court Cases