Never Again: The 75th Anniversary of Japanese American Incarceration

Japanese Incarceration Through the Lens

After Executive Order 9066 was signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on February 19th, 1942, Dorothea Lange was hired by the United States government to document the "relocation" process of Japanese-Americans on the western coast of the United States. For the government, this was to ensure that an accurate and factual record of the evacuation was to be preserved, however, it also revealed the inhumane treatment that Japanese Americans faced during this period. 

“A photographic record could protect against false allegations of mistreatment and violations of international law, but it carried the risk, of course, of documenting actual mistreatment.” - Linda Gordon, Impounded: Dorothea Lange and the Censored Images of Japanese American Internment

When Dorothea Lange completed her task, her photos were buried in the national archives until they were recently rediscovered. The images that were captured detail extensively the lives of those forced to relocate to the internment camps throughout the United States. According to the Japanese American National Museum, over 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans were displaced from their communities and incarcerated without trial, leading to the largest forced relocation in U.S. History. 


"The Japanese American internment was the result, not of necessity, but race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership" -  Japanese American National Museum, The Remembrance Project

Prior to the relocation and incarceration of Japanese-Americans, individuals were required to report to neighborhood "civil control stations." Here, families registered with the local authorities and received a family number. They were then provided with information about transportation to the camps. These were run by the Wartime Civil Control Administration (WCCA) in conjunction with the War Relocation Authority (WRA) under federal control.

"My family name was reduced to No. 13660. I was given several tags bearing the family number, and was then dismissed." - Mine Okubo, Tanforan Assembly Center, San Bruno

By the end of May 1942, the WRA had successfully constructed ten "relocation" camps in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah. This is distinct from the camps run by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) which served to "detain allegedly potentially dangerous enemy aliens," who consisted of Japanese, German, and Italian ancestry. 


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