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Library of Congress

Japanese-American camp, war emergency evacuation.

Desert Exile

  1. How did the United States justify the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II? Why weren't Americans of German and Italian ancestry similarly interned during the war?
  2. Describe the three elements of internment you think are most important for understanding the day-to-day experience of Japanese-American internees. How did a person's age or sex affect their response to internment? How did geography and location affect camps? Did this description of the internment experience match other accounts of the internment you have read?
  3. What was the effect of internment on Japanese families? How did it affect relationships between parents and children? What effect did laws about Japanese-American citizens have on family relationships over the course of the war?
  4. What happened to the Japanense sense of community during their internment? How did internment change the people's sense of how they fit into American society in general? How did what it meant to be "American" or "Japanese" change?
  5. What dilemmas did Nisei face in being both Japanese and American? Give specific examples from Yoskiko and her sister Keiko's lives, both before and after internment. How was life different or similar for immigrants such as Mike (in Out of this Furnace) and African-Americans such as Richard (in Black Boy)?

Internet Resources

Japanese American Internment

A More Perfect Union: Japanese Americans & the U.S. Constitution
An on-line version of the permanent exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
Dear Miss Breed: Letters from Camp...
Personal accounts of the internment, presented by the Japanese American National Museum, a Smithsonian affiliate in Los Angeles. The letters are from interned children to Clara Estelle Breed, a supervising children’s librarian at the San Diego Public Library before the war.

World War II

WWII Sounds & Pictures Page
A fantastic collection of RealAudio recordings by major figures in Europe, Japan, and the United States during the Second World War. This site also includes a collection of propaganda posters produced during the war.
Produce for Victory: Posters on the American Home Front (1941-45)
An on-line exhibit organized by the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History
The Pearl Harbor Attack Hearings
5,000 pages of documents related to the Congressional investigations into the attack on Pearl Harbor. This site includes documents related to the fear of civilian involvement in the Japanese attack and anti-Japanese-American hysteria.

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Created 4 April 1997 / Updated 15 October 2007