Admission to JANM will be free to the public on Saturday, March 12, in celebration of the Smithsonian Institution’s annual Museum Day Live! event. This day is intended to encourage all people to explore our nation’s museums, cultural institutions, zoos, aquariums, parks, and libraries. This year, in recognition of Women’s History Month, the event has a special focus on reaching women and girls of color in underserved communities.
At JANM, we are very fortunate to have some significant pieces in our collection created by Japanese American women, such as the artist Miné Okubo (1912–2001), whose collection has been digitized and can be viewed on our museum’s website.
Okubo was a young woman during World War II. She and her family were removed from San Francisco to Tanforan Assembly Center, and then incarcerated in the concentration camp at Topaz, Utah, for the remainder of the war. Okubo was a keen observer; she made sketches and ink drawings that depicted what life was really like in camp.
In many ways, Okubo was ahead of her time. Her graphic novel, Citizen 13660 (1946), was the first published personal account of the camp experience. Through her pen and ink drawings, readers got an intimate view of what daily life became when Okubo, an American citizen by birth, was reduced to a number: 13660.
My name is Lauren Wong. I am an Ambassador Girl Scout with Troop 881, based at the Orange County Buddhist Church in Anaheim, California, and a candidate for the Girl Scout Gold Award. This award is similar to the Eagle Scout rank in Boy Scouts; it is the highest award a Girl Scout can earn. Applying for it is a seven-step process that begins with identifying a global issue and ends with creating a project that educates, inspires, and promotes awareness of that issue. For my Gold Award application, I have created a special Girl Scout patch program for the Japanese American National Museum.
Since I was little, my grandmother has told me stories of her incarceration at Tule Lake concentration camp, inspiring my passion for learning more about my Japanese American history. Students do not generally get the opportunity to learn about the mistreatment of Japanese Americans during World War II, as it is often overlooked in history classes. Even today, many of my school friends do not know about the camps. My goal is to educate the general public and inspire them to appreciate the lives they have today and not let history repeat itself.
I have created an educational tool called Experience the Past, available in three separate worksheets geared toward elementary school students, middle school students, and high school students/adults. The worksheets, which can be requested at JANM’s front desk, are designed to accompany a visit to the museum’s core exhibition, Common Ground: The Heart of Community. They pose questions and suggest exercises that are designed to help visitors identify with the exhibition, think more deeply about what they’re seeing, connect it with aspects of contemporary life, and converse with others about their experience.
At the end of their visit, participants who complete a worksheet earn a custom patch that I created. Through this program, I hope to spread awareness of the history of Japanese American incarceration, which is important not just to Japanese American history, but to American history as a whole.
Tickets are still available for two upcoming Girl Scout programs at JANM. On January 9 and 16, current Girl Scouts are invited to take a private tour of Giant Robot Biennale 4, followed by a zine-making workshop with exhibiting artist Yumi Sakugawa. For more details and to register, visit janm.org.
When eighth-grade teacher Staci Yamanishi visits JANM with her students, she takes them through Common Ground: The Heart of Community, our ongoing exhibition on the Japanese American experience, and Fighting for Democracy, our appointment-only interactive exhibit on civil rights. Before they leave to return to their classroom however, the students receive one very special bonus assignment: find their teacher’s name engraved on the JANM courtyard.
Since JANM’s Pavilion building was opened in 1999, the museum has engraved the names of its youngest constituents in the Children’s Courtyard. For JANM, the Courtyard is a way to connect to each new generation, with the hope that being a part of the museum in this way will inspire a lifetime of sharing and discovery. As the young visitors grow into adults, we hope that they will continue to return to this institution and feel that they are a part of this community.
For Staci, the engraving was a gift from her grandparents. She remembers coming to the museum with her parents when she was young to look at her name, and she has returned many times over the years. She remembers visiting JANM on a school trip in the eighth grade and again when she was a student in UCLA’s Teacher Education Program.
Museum staff began getting to know Staci during her UCLA years, and soon after, she contributed a poem titled “I Come from Many Memories” to JANM’s experimental exhibition Xploration Lab 2012, which explored issues of identity. Staci has also served on an educator committee, which the museum’s Education Unit convenes on occasion to help brainstorm ways JANM can better serve teachers and students.
Now, in addition to occasional visits with her family, Staci returns every year on an eighth grade field trip—no longer as a student, but as a teacher. When asked why she brings her students to JANM, she replies that it’s important to her that the students understand her history—a unique history that is not found in their textbooks.
Much of Yamanishi’s knowledge of her history comes from conversations she had with her grandfather before he passed away. Having served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team while his wife (Staci’s grandmother) was incarcerated at Manzanar, he was an advocate of sharing the Japanese American World War II experience. He ingrained in Staci the importance of being proud of one’s history and passing it on to the next generation. Now, as a teacher herself, she encourages her students to explore their own stories through family history projects.
JANM is proud to know Staci and we are thankful for people like her, who share our mission to promote understanding and appreciation of America’s ethnic and cultural diversity by sharing the Japanese American experience.
If you are interested in purchasing an engraving for a child or youth (21 and under) in your life, visit our Children’s Courtyard Engraving page for complete details.
The Civilian Exclusion Order poster, which announced the evacuation of all persons of Japanese ancestry, is seen at left. The full text can be read here. Take a close look at this document and consider some of the euphemistic words used by the government—”non-alien,” “evacuation,” and “temporary residence.”
In 1942, these posters were placed in public areas all along the West Coast of the United States. With an average of seven days’ notice, thousands of individuals of Japanese ancestry were forcibly removed from their homes and incarcerated in American concentration camps without due process. Many of these individuals were United States citizens. They could only bring with them what they could carry and their lives were irreversibly disrupted.
In 1983, the artist Qris Yamashita created a silkscreen poster titled Redress/Reparations Now!/Little Tokyo. Inspired by the Civilian Exclusion Order, this work looks critically at the language used, and makes notes to draw our attention to certain words and phrases, helping us to consider what they really mean.
Yamashita’s work points out that the phrase “non-alien” really meant U.S. citizens. The United States government gathered and imprisoned its own citizens based on the fact that they were of Japanese descent. The government also stated that it would provide “temporary residence” elsewhere. As it turned out, the citizens were first held in horse stables that had been transformed into temporary detention centers, and then transported to hastily built barracks in remote, barren areas.
There is far more to explore in both of these pieces so feel free to take a closer look. The next time you’re in downtown Los Angeles, come to the Japanese American National Museum and see Common Ground: The Heart of Community to learn more about this period in our country’s history.
For more about the Civilian Exclusion Order as it relates to Executive Order 9066, read this past blog post that explains the difference between the two.
In Japanese American history, Executive Order 9066 and the Civilian Exclusion Orders are often confused with one another; many people mistakenly believe that they are the same thing. In fact, they are two different decrees that acted in concert to legitimize government-sanctioned racism during World War II.
On February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. This two-page, typewritten order was simply designed, in broad strokes, to give the Secretary of War the power to establish designated military areas from which people could be evacuated as he saw fit:
I hereby authorize and direct the Secretary of War, and the Military Commanders whom he may from time to time designate, whenever he or any designated Commander deems such action necessary or desirable, to prescribe military areas in such places and of such extent as he or the appropriate Military Commander may determine, from which any or all persons may be excluded, and with respect to which, the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary of War or the appropriate Military Commander may impose in his discretion.
Executive Order 9066 is what opened the door for the exclusion and removal of all people of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast and into World War II American concentration camps. This was then put into action by a series of Civilian Exclusion Orders.
Posted on signs in large, bold lettering, the orders appeared first in Bainbridge Island, Washington, on March 24, 1942 and were subsequently posted all along the West Coast of the United States. This series of sequential orders issued by the Western Defense Command and Fourth Army Wartime Civil Control Administration informed people of Japanese ancestry that they were required to pack up, leave their homes, and report to designated locations.
Following is a key excerpt from one of the orders:
Pursuant to the provisions of Civilian Exclusion Order No. 34, this Headquarters, dated May 3, 1942, all persons of Japanese ancestry, both alien and non-alien, will be evacuated from the above area by 12 o’clock noon, P. W. T., Sunday, May 9, 1942.
Note the highly strategic use of language in this paragraph. The persons to be rounded up are both “alien and non-alien”—these words are used instead of the designations “citizen and non-citizen.” Imagine the reaction these orders might have generated among the general populace, had they in fact made plain that that the government’s intention was to incarcerate persons who were citizens of the United States.
By the same token, the order states that all persons of Japanese ancestry are to be “evacuated”—a word commonly used during natural disasters, when citizens are evacuated from an area for their own safety. History has made it clear that it was in fact the safety of non-Japanese Americans that prompted these extreme actions from the U.S. government.
These egregious instances of legalized racism have since been widely recognized and officially apologized for by the government. February 19, 1942—the date President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066—is now annually commemorated as a “Day of Remembrance” by Japanese Americans and all people interested in the protection of civil liberties.
During World War II, the U.S. government forcibly removed Japanese Americans from their homes on the West Coast without due process. Most of them were sent to one of ten concentration camps located throughout the United States: Amache, Gila River, Heart Mountain, Jerome, Manzanar, Minidoka, Poston, Rohwer, Topaz, and Tule Lake, as they are commonly referred to. The War Relocation Authority selected these locations because they were remote, owned by the federal government, and often near rail lines.
For many years after the war, Japanese Americans did their best to get on with their post-camp lives, preferring not to dwell on the unpleasant experience of incarceration. As the years passed however, the community became more interested in grappling with this part of its history. Trips back to the camps began, with some organizing group pilgrimages to facilitate the experience.
Now, more than seventy years after resettlement, there has evolved what could be called a pilgrimage season. The 2015 “season” begins in April and ends in August. Following is a complete schedule with links to more information about each of the organized pilgrimages, including registration and fees.
These are the five sites that have regular pilgrimages; we encourage you to visit the others as well. With the exception of the Gila River camp in Arizona, permits are not required. In February, President Obama recognized Honouliuli in Hawai`i as a National Monument, so perhaps Hawai`i will one day be added as part of the pilgrimage season.
No matter who you are—whether you were incarcerated or not, whether you are of Japanese descent or not—you might consider visiting one of the former camp sites. There is nothing like standing there, feeling the air, seeing the mountains, sensing the scorching heat or the bitter cold. It is definitely worth a visit, even though they are remote and the conditions are harsh; in fact, that is the point.
Are you a student in the Los Angeles area? Are you a parent of a student in the Los Angeles area? Have you heard of Los Angeles Summer of Learning? Well this is something that you should definitely know about!
Los Angeles Summer of Learning is a great new initiative that seeks to engage young people with hands-on learning activities at museums, parks, libraries, and other organizations during the summer months. Think of Los Angeles as one giant summer classroom where students can earn digital badges for participating in fun and educational activities throughout the city.
JANM is proud to participate in this initiative with our 2014 Natsumatsuri Family Festival on Saturday, August 9th. Students can earn a digital badge by coming to our popular annual summer celebration and checking out an array of traditional Japanese and Japanese American performances, crafts, talks, workshops, and special events. Admission is FREE all day!
To participate in Los Angeles Summer of Learning, all you have to do is sign up on the website and browse for activities that interest you or your children. You will be on your way to earning digital badges in no time! To get your Natsumatsuri badge, be sure to come to JANM on August 9th and ask for your badge claim code at our survey table.
You can read more about Los Angeles Summer of Learning here.
January 30 is the birthday of the late Fred Korematsu and it is also Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and Social Justice!
Over the past few years, we have had a chance to get to know his daughter, Karen Korematsu, who has taken on the role of Co-Founder and now Executive Director of the Korematsu Institute, whose mission is to advance pan-ethnic civil and human rights through education.
Karen is joining with others to spread the word about her father’s story. As a young man, Mr. Korematsu purposely disobeyed the government’s 1942 order that excluded all people of Japanese ancestry, without due process, from the West Coast. He was arrested and eventually removed to a Japanese American concentration camp in Utah. He appealed his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, but in 1944 the Court ruled against him, declaring that the exclusion and confinement of people of Japanese descent was justified. It wasn’t until 1983 that his conviction was finally overturned. (Here is a link to his full bio.)
For teachers who are planning to commemorate Mr. Korematsu’s stand for civil liberties, we’ve put together a few links to FREE resources that we hope might be helpful to you:
We are so excited about our upcoming participation in a National Youth Summit with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and 10 other Smithsonian Affiliate organizations across the country.
On February 5, 2014 students from around the country will participate in a live webcast originating from The Old Capitol Museum in Jackson, Mississippi. The program will reflect on the 1964 youth-led effort for voting rights and education known as Freedom Summer and will include a panel of activists, experts, and scholars.
Following the webcast, JANM will have our own on-site program. Tamio Wakayama, a Nisei Japanese Canadian who joined the American Civil Rights Movement as a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), will share his experiences and the documentary photographs that he took from 1963 to 1964.
Now, here’s the great part: all youth and educators are invited to participate from their classrooms through the magic of the web! Teachers… this means you! Just take a look at this fantastic site for the program.
The Smithsonian has provided teaching resources and other tools for you and your students. You can pre-register and join in the conversation along with us and view the program streaming live from the Old Capitol Museum.
In July, JANM hosted a national conference themed, Speaking Up! Democracy, Justice, Dignity in Seattle. And now, we are pleased to announce that conference audio and video files are now available online!
You can see the breadth of audio and video offerings here, as well as here.
We hope that these offerings will help those who were at the conference—as well as those who weren’t able to make it—continue to learn, grow, and be inspired to speak up for democracy, justice, and dignity!