During World War II, over 110,000 Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants were sent to internment camps across the west. Almost two thirds of them were American citizens.
75 years ago this past February, Executive Order 9066 was signed into law by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. These two episodes of Stuff you Missed in History Class explain the multiple factors that led up to Executive Order 9066, including the discrimination faced by Japanese immigrants even before the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. No person of Japanese descent was safe from this EO. This includes children who were adopted by white American families, the elderly, and the infirm.
Part two of this history explains the conditions in the camps, as well as reasons that some citizens were eventually released from the camps. It also outlines the difficulties that persons of Japanese descent faced even after they were released from the internment camps. Eventually the Federal Government issued an apology and decided that reparations were warranted in 1988, signed into law as the Civil Liberties Act under President Ronald Reagan.
One of the internment camps, Manzanar has been preserved by the National Park Service, and can be visited today. Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange documented the conditions within the camps as well. Some of Lange’s photos can be viewed here, Adams’ here.