HST 2019: Years of Infamy: Japanese American Internment in World War Two
In the spring of 1942, a few months after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, US president Franklin D Roosevelt authorised the forced relocation and incarceration of more than 110,000 Japanese Americans. Two-thirds of the evacuees were US citizens; none had been convicted of any crime. Initially confined to cattle stalls and pigpens hastily converted for human occupancy, by the end of 1942 almost all Japanese Americans had been moved to one of ten new camps located in seven western states. According to the government and military authorities, the detention of Americans of Japanese descent was a "military necessity". That argument, however, was fiercely contested at the time, and was rejected by a 1983 congressional commission which concluded that it was rooted in "race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership."
This module employs the diverse array of primary sources associated with Japanese American internment – photographs, court rulings, official documents, and the artwork, poetry and personal testimony of the internees themselves – to explore questions of race, citizenship, and democracy in the 20th century United States.