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Guide for the internment of japanese americans Essay

Read and be prepared to provide a brief summary of one of the personal stories (chapters) from Last Witnesses: Reflections on the Wartime Internment of Japanese Americans, Erica Harth ed. (Chapters will be handed out at the March book group session.)

Reading questions:

1. Carefully read the ‘Note for Students’ at the start of the book, paying particular attention to what Edward Countryman says about written history. He says “But good historians always approach the past on its own terms, taking careful stock of the period’s cultural norms and people’s assumptions or expectations, no matter how different from contemporary attitudes.” What point is he making here and do you agree with him?

2. The various essays in the book are taken from historical scholarship produced over time and with very different access to government documents and personal records and remembrances of the events surrounding Roosevelt’s signing the Executive Order. What does this scholarship tell us about writing with proximity to an event? How can this help us, as teachers, explain to our students what the historian does?

3. Roger Daniels in ‘The Decision for Mass Evacuation’ argues that Japanese Americans were placed in ‘concentration camps’. Other commentators continue to call the sites ‘Internment Camps’. Does it matter what these places were called?

4. Daniels quotes from one of the California proponents of removal (p. 50) that the Japanese could not be trusted at all because they had been so discriminated against in the past that they had become “unassimilable” and could not be well enough known to be trusted. Compare this point of view to the arguments used to ‘drive out’ the Chinese from the same places in the
late nineteenth century. How much do you think being able to brand a group as ‘the other’ plays a role in these two cases? Do you think the same arguments were utilized after September 11 to justify Guantanamo?

5. Why did FDR, despite all of the evidence he was presented to the contrary, sign the Executive Order? In a related question, How did the tenor of the times lead the Supreme Court and a variety of seemingly able attorneys to bend the law, hide crucial evidence, and carry out the removals?

6. How is Gordon Hirabayshi like many of the leading Chinese individuals we read about in Driven Out?

7. Think about social guilt and historical responsibility and whether countries must think through past injustice and apologize for them and make some sort of reparations? We have the cases to consider from our readings of the Chinese on the West Coast, African Americans post-slavery, and Japanese Americans after the Second World War. Does the generation that did not inflict the harm owe the apology and the debt, or does this sort of thinking prolong the discord and inhibit efforts at reconciliation?

8. Dorothea Lange was hired by the War Relocation Authority to document the relocation process, but when the Army saw the tenor/tone of her work they impounded all of the photos and most of them never saw the light of day until 2006! Compare some of the photos from Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange and try to figure out why Lange’s were ‘disappeared.’ (See links below.)

Web Sites:
1. Exploring the Japanese-American Internment through film and the Internet. http://www.asianamericanmedia.org/jainternment/

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 authorizing the mass incarceration of over 110,000 Japanese Americans during World War II.

Two-thirds were American citizens. Over half were children or infants. Their “crime”: their Japanese ancestry. Forty-six years later our government
officially apologized for this “grave injustice” and paid reparations. Could it happen again to another group of Americans?

2. This site supplements a recent PBS documentary titled ‘Children of the Camps’. ‘Children of the Camps’ is a one-hour documentary that portrays the poignant stories of six Japanese Americans who were interned as children in US concentration camps during W.W.II. The film “captures a three-day intensive group experience, during which the participants are guided by Dr. Satsuki Ina, a university professor and therapist, through a process that enables them to speak honestly about their experiences and the continuing impact of internment on their lives today.” http://www.pbs.org/childofcamp/

3. This amazing site contains an annotated directory of Internet-based resources on the Internment. http://newton.uor.edu/Departments&Programs/AsianStudiesDept/asianam-intern.html

4. Great website with historical timeline, memories, posters from the camps and other primary source material. http://www.geocities.com/Athens/8420/main.html

5. Site is the Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco. Site contains lots of primary sources and a collection of articles from the San Francisco News during March 1942 when the Executive order was signed. http://www.sfmuseum.org/war/evactxt.html

6. Famed photographer Ansel Adams took a series of 242 photographs at the Manzanar War Relocation Center. Photos can be found at this site. http://www.asianamericans.com/AnselAdamsManzanar.htm

7. Dorothea Lange and the Internment of the Japanese
http://www.sfmuseum.org/hist/lange.html


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