How did Japanese Americans experience and resist incarceration during World War II?
First Edition. April 2018. FREE, thanks to the generosity of the National Park Service Japanese American Confinement Site Grant and the Yale University Out of the Desert Project.

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On February 19, 1942, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 that authorized the forced removal of Japanese Americans living along the West Coast of the United States to ten U.S. concentration camps. And although Japanese American incarceration is often thought of as a terrible exception in U.S. history, in reality, it is merely one of the instances in which U.S. policy has targeted and discriminated against a specific group on the basis of ethnicity, race, or religion. Japanese American Incarceration in World War II explores this important history. Part I of the reading examines Japanese immigration to the United States and Japanese American experiences in the United States up until World War II. Part II focuses on life inside the U.S. concentration camps for Japanese Americans during the war. Part III explores life after incarceration and its ongoing effects for Japanese American communities.


The Geography of Japanese American Incarceration

Students practice map reading skills by locating and identifying sites of Japanese American incarceration on a map. They then work together to explore images of Japanese American incarceration and identify issues and themes for inquiry.

Newspaper Analysis

Students analyze articles from an historical newspaper to learn about some of the experiences of incarcerated Japanese Americans and consider how accounts of everyday life in the camps contribute to understanding history.

Documenting Life in the Camps: The Watercolors of Kango Takamura

After viewing and analyzing watercolors depicting camp life for Japanese Americans, students consider the benefits and limitations of analyzing art as a primary source.

Oral Histories of Japanese American Incarceration

Students develop skills for analyzing oral histories and then explore the content and silences of personal stories of incarceration.

Students use primary sources to compare and contrast Japanese American incarceration and contemporary migrant detention, and explore how knowledge of history can inspire activism and build solidarity.


Supplemental Resources

Additional reference material for added context and support.


Asahina, Robert. Just Americans: How Japanese Americans Won a War at Home and Abroad: The Story of the 100th Battalion/442d Regimental Combat Team in World War II. New York: Penguin Books, 2006.

Creef, Elena Tajima. Imagining Japanese America: The Visual Construction of Citizenship, Nation, and the Body. New York: New York University Press, 2004.

Gordon, Linda and Gary Y. Okihiro. Impounded: Dorothea Lange and the Censored Images of Japanese American Internment. New York: W.W. Norton, 2006.

Inouye, Karen M. The Long Afterlife of Nikkei Wartime Incarceration. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2016.

Ishizuka, Karen L. Lost and Found: Reclaiming the Japanese American Incarceration. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2006.

Okada, John. No-No Boy. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2014.

Okubo, Mine. Citizen 13660. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1946.

Robinson, Greg. By Order of the President: FDR and the Internment of Japanese Americans. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001.

Stewart, Todd, Natasha Egan, and Karen J. Leong. Placing Memory: a Photographic Exploration of Japanese American Internment. Tulsa: University of Oklahoma Press, 2008.

An organization dedicated to preserving testimonies of Japanese American incarcerees with online collections including oral histories, photographs, and an encyclopedia.
A social justice and civil rights education organization that offers resources for teaching about Japanese incarceration with connections to other historical events as well as current events.
Online resources on Japanese American incarceration, including background information, maps, and digitized primary sources such as photographs and letters.
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