How did Japanese Americans experience and resist incarceration during World War II?
First Edition. April 2018. FREE in Digital Editions, thanks to the generosity of the National Park Service Japanese American Confinement Site Grant and the Yale University Out of the Desert Project. To access the unit for FREE, click Purchase, then add the Digital Editions Individual Teacher License to your cart and complete the checkout process.
PREVIEW THIS UNIT. The preview includes the table of contents, a student reading excerpt, and one lesson plan. PREVIEW ALL UNITS. Additional unit descriptions for the U.S. History Series that summarize key events, people, and terms, as well as underrepresented histories and skill development are available, along with a timeline, on this MIRO BOARD.

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 introduces students to the incarceration of Japanese Americans in camps in the United States during World War II, a topic often overlooked in narratives of U.S. history. The unit equips students to consider the history of Japanese American incarceration and its historical and present-day implications. The unit is divided into three parts. The parts include:

  • Student readings
  • Accompanying study guides, graphic organizers, and key terms
  • Lessons aligned with the readings that develop analytical skills and can be completed in one or more periods
  • Videos that feature leading experts

You do not need to use the entire unit; feel free to select what suits your classroom needs.

“This unit goes in depth on a topic that is often glossed over in textbooks. My students knew so little about it. The primary sources of camp newspapers and oral history were amazing, and the videos that introduced the lesson were really effective in framing the purpose of the lesson.” – Amy, History and Contemporary Issues Teacher, CT

Part I: Japanese Americans in the Nineteenth Century Through World War II

Part I of the reading introduces the relationship between the United States and Japan before World War II, and outlines Japanese immigration to the United States. There is one lesson aligned with Part I: The Geography of Japanese American Incarceration.

Part II: Experiences of Incarceration During World War II

Part II of the reading offers descriptions of the ways Japanese Americans experienced incarceration. There are two lessons aligned with Part II: 1) Newspaper Analysis, and 2) Documenting Life in the Camps: The Watercolors of Kango Takamura.

Part III: The Post-War Period

In Part III, students consider the ways that different people have chosen to remember and commemorate incarceration up to the present. There are two lessons aligned with Part III: 1) Oral Histories of Japanese American Incarceration, and 2) “Never Again Is Now”: Incarceration Histories and Solidarity.


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.

Back to top