japanese american relocation

Tule Lake Relocation Center, ca. 1942, watercolor by Mary Oshiro.

 Mary Oshiro was interned at the Tule Lake camp, beginning in 1942.  She worked as an artist and stencil cutter for the camp newspaper, the Tulean Dispatch. The camp housed between 14,000 and 15,000 Japanese Americans. Two-thirds of the internees were born in the U.S.

This month marks the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066 that authorized the relocation and internment of people of Japanese ancestry residing on the West Coast.

Oshiro’s artwork, photos, and correspondence are part of the State Library’s collection.


August 10th 1988: Reparations for Japanese-Americans

On this day in 1988, U.S. President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 into law, apologising and providing reparations to Japanese-Americans who were interned in camps during the Second World War. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which prompted the United States to join World War Two on the Allied side, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order allowing the military to relocate Japanese-Americans to internment camps. The order withstood a Supreme Court challenge, and ultimately nearly 120,000 people were held in such camps. Those imprisoned suffered great material and personal losses, with most losing property and some losing their lives to illness or the violence of sentries. There were frequent calls for reparations for this crime against people of Japanese descent, and in 1988 the government officially apologised and provided for $20,000 in compensation for each survivor, with payments beginning in 1990. The 1988 Civil Liberties Act bill received primarily Democratic votes, with many Republican members of Congress voting against it.

“The Congress recognizes that…a grave injustice was done to both citizens and permanent residents of Japanese ancestry by the evacuation, relocation, and internment of civilians during World War II”

46 photos of life at a Japanese internment camp, taken by Ansel Adams
In 1943, legendary photographer Ansel Adams visited Manzanar, a Japanese internment camp in California's Sierra Nevada mountains.
By Brian Jones

Even at the time, this policy was opposed by many Americans, including renowned photographer Ansel Adams, who in the summer of 1943 made his first visit to Manzanar War Relocation Camp in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Invited by the warden, Adams sought to document the living conditions of the camp’s inhabitants.

His photos were published in a book titled “Born Free and Equal: The Story of Loyal Japanese-Americans” in 1944, with an accompanying exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art.


W.R.A. Leave Pass, Teiji Okuda, No. 15771

Those incarcerated at the War Relocation Centers (Japanese Internment Camps) were denied many of their civil and personal liberties. The freedom to travel outside of the camps was severely restricted. However, internees could leave the camps if they were able to join the work-release program. 

(Smithsonian Institution)