Gallery Walk of the Japanese American Incarceration

Take a Digital Tour

Study the Japanese American incarceration in more depth by examining collections of primary source documents. Explore all seven exhibits and take notes for reflection.

Gallery Exhibits:
Exhibit B
Exhibit B
Map of Prison Camps
Exhibit A
Exclusion_Order_posted_at_First_and_Fron
Exhibit A

Eviction Poster

Exhibit C
389761_772520d3da714bdfa4e75e8aa1415a2am
Exhibit C
Photos of the Forced Removal
Exhibit D
Photos of Life in the Prison Camps
Exhibit D
Exhibit G
Exhibit G
Leave-Related Documents
Exhibit F
Exhibit F
Memorandum from Delos Emmons
Exhibit E
Exhibit E
Front Page of the Heart Mountain Sentinel

Introduction
Learn more about the Japanese American incarceration through a gallery walk activity. Examine all seven exhibits, responding to the prompts at the bottom of each exhibit.

Note that in many of the captioned photos, there will be quotation marks placed around out-of-date terminology that was used during that time.

 
Gallery Exhibit A:
Eviction Poster in San Francisco

Context

On February 19, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which authorized the government to designate military areas “from which any or all persons may be excluded.”

 

Two weeks later, Army General John DeWitt designated the West Coast as a military exclusion area.¹

Soon thereafter, eviction posters began appearing in neighborhoods across the West Coast. These posters informed the local Japanese residents that they would be evicted from their homes and gave them specific instructions on what they needed to do in the days ahead.

 

The poster you are about to examine appeared in a neighborhood in San Francisco, California.

 

EVICTION POSTER.jpg

Questions

  1. Describe the document. What kind of document is it? When was it created, and by whom? Who is its intended audience?
     

  2. Fact-finding:

    • How much time were residents given to prepare for eviction?

    • What items did people need to take with them? What was the stated limit on the amount of belongings people could take?

    • How freely could Japanese American residents move around San Francisco?

    • What assistance could people seek from the Civil Control Station?
       

  3. What does this document reveal about the experience of Japanese Americans during World War II? What have you learned?
     

  4. What questions did this document raise for you? (i.e., What lingering questions do you have?)

  1. “Internment of Japanese Americans,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internment_of_Japanese_Americans#Exclusion,_removal,_and_detention [31 July 2020].

References

Map published online in 2000 by the National Park Service.

Gallery Exhibit B:
Map of Prison Camps

Context


During World War II, about 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry were forcibly removed from their homes and placed in different kinds of government-operated facilities.

 

Collectively, these facilities have often been informally called “internment camps,” though scholars have advocated the use of less euphemistic terms such as “concentration camps.”

The different kinds of camps were run by different entities, including the Department of Justice and the U.S. Army. However, there were two types of prison camps that held the majority of Japanese Americans:

 

  • Assembly Centers” were hastily built facilities used in 1942–43 to temporarily house inmates while permanent Relocation Centers were constructed. They were operated by the Wartime Civilian Control Administration (WCCA).
     

  • “Relocation Centers” were the 10 permanent camps in which the vast majority of people were eventually incarcerated. They were operated by the War Relocation Authority (WRA).
     

Questions

  1. Describe the document. What kind of document is it? When was it created, and by whom? Who is its intended audience?
     

  2. Study and interpret the document. What observations do you make? (e.g., What does the bold black line signify? Where were most camps located? What is the difference in geographic distribution between Assembly Centers and Relocation Centers? etc.)
     

  3. What does this document reveal about the experience of Japanese Americans during World War II? What have you learned?
     

  4. What questions did this document raise for you? (i.e., What lingering questions do you have?)

 

Gallery Exhibit C:
Photos of the Forced Removal

Context

In 1942, the U.S. government forcibly relocated about 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast to prison camps. This process took several months, with communities evicted one after another.

 

Once they received an eviction order, residents had a few days to choose and pack their most precious belongings, try to sell everything else (sometimes including homes, cars, and businesses), and prepare for eviction.

Photographers Clem Albers and Dorothea Lange worked for the War Relocation Authority, and photographer Russell Lee worked for the Office of War Information.
 

 

Gallery Exhibit D:
Photos of Life in the Prison Camps

Context

In 1942, the U.S. government forcibly relocated about 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast to prison camps around the nation. Most were eventually incarcerated in one of 10 Relocation Centers run by the War Relocation Authority. Although they were forced to adjust to a completely new environment and lifestyle, they tried to preserve as many aspects of normal life as possible.

Photographers Clem Albers, Dorothea Lange, Francis Stewart, and Tom Parker worked for the War Relocation Authority. Photographer Toyo Miyatake was an inmate in Manzanar Relocation Center who at first took photos of camp life in secret using smuggled camera equipment, which were contraband. Later, when restrictions were loosened, he became the official camp photographer.²

 

Gallery
Exhibit E:

Front Page of the Heart Mountain Sentinel

Context

 

Heart Mountain Relocation Center, located about 14 miles northeast of Cody, Wyoming, was one of the 10 facilities run by the War Relocation Authority during World War II to incarcerate people of Japanese ancestry. At maximum capacity, 10,767 inmates were imprisoned there.³

Like at other Relocation Centers, the inmates of Heart Mountain began to publish their own internal newspaper, the Heart Mountain Sentinel. You will now view the front page of the Sentinel’s very first edition.

The Heart Mountain Sentinel

Identifier: sn84024756. Source: Library of Congress, Serial and Government Publications Division

Questions

  1. Describe the document. What kind of document is it? When was it created, and by whom? Who is its intended audience? What is its intended purpose?
     

  2. Examine the document. In particular, read the sections entitled “Editorial” and “First Copies Sent Roosevelt, Myer.” What does this document reveal about the circumstances, cares, and concerns of Heart Mountain’s residents?
     

  3. What have you learned from this document? What, if anything, surprised you?
     

  4. What questions did this document raise for you? (i.e., What lingering questions do you have?)

References

“Heart Mountain,” Densho Encyclopedia, http://encyclopedia.densho.org/Heart_Mountain/ [31 July 2020].

3.

Gallery Exhibit F:
Memorandum from Delos Emmons

Context

After Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the U.S. government immediately declared war on Japan. At the same time, it declared martial law in Hawaii. Civilian courts were closed, and the military assumed control of the government. Army Lt. Gen. Delos Emmons became Hawaii’s military governor, overseeing many aspects of resident life.

With the country now at war with Japan, many U.S. government and military leaders became suspicious of the loyalties of the ethnic Japanese population in the United States. On the West Coast, this suspicion ultimately led to the summary incarceration of about 120,000 people, most of whom were Americans by birth. Although there were calls for a similar mass incarceration in Hawaii, these calls never came to fruition. 

You will now read a memorandum from Emmons to the Assistant Secretary of War regarding a previous report the Secretary received about Hawaii’s Japanese population. Emmons refers to U.S. Attorney Angus Taylor, an outspoken advocate for mass incarceration.
 

Memorandum from Emmons to the Assistant Secretary of War 

confidential_edited.jpg

- Page 2 -

confidential 2_edited_edited.jpg

Courtesy of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians. Source: Densho Digital Repository License

Questions

  1. Describe the document. What kind of document is it? When was it created, and by whom? Who is its intended audience?
     

  2. What is the author’s intended purpose? What message is he trying to convey, and what arguments does he use to make his point?
     

  3. What have you learned from this document?
     

  4. What questions did this document raise for you? (i.e., What lingering questions do you have?)

References

“Martial Law in Hawaii,” Densho Encyclopedia, http://encyclopedia.densho.org/Martial_law_in_Hawaii/ [31 July 2020].

4.

Gallery Exhibit G:
Leave-Related Documents

Context

Starting in 1942, the U.S. government incarcerated people of Japanese ancestry en masse. However, as time wore on, the government began loosening some restrictions on inmates and eventually began allowing some people to leave camp for certain reasons, and for certain periods of time—ranging from a few hours to a few years (e.g., to attend college) and even indefinitely.

 

Below are three different leave-related documents.

 en masse

in a group; all together

Pass for in-and-out privileges at Manzanar, CA, 1943.

Courtesy of Manzanar National Historic Site and the Shinjo Nagatomi Collection. Source: Densho Digital Repository License

Citizen’s Short-Term Leave Notice at Rohwer Relocation Center, AR, 1944.

Courtesy of the Kuroishi Family Collection. Source: Densho Digital Repository

Citizen’s Indefinite Leave Card, 1943.

Mae Hara’s Indefinite Leave Card allowed her to leave Minidoka concentration camp and move to Chicago, IL with her husband, Iwao. While in Chicago she worked with the American Friends Field Service as a social worker.

Courtesy of Mae Hara Collection. Source: Densho Digital Repository License

Questions

  1. Describe the documents. What kind of documents are they? When were they created, and by whom? Who is their intended audience? What is their intended purpose?
     

  2. What were the reasons these leaves were granted? For what lengths of time were they valid?
     

  3. What do these documents reveal about the experience of Japanese Americans during World War II?
     

  4. What questions did these documents raise for you? (i.e., What lingering questions do you have?)

Next Up:

HOW LANGUAGE SHAPES PERCEPTIONS

ACTIVITY

Use the Japanese American incarceration as a case study to examine how terminology can shape our perceptions.