Japanese American history gained a new national audience this past weekend: Allegiance, a dramatic reenactment of World War II incarceration set at the Heart Mountain concentration camp, opened on Broadway. In response to concerns raised by members of the Japanese American community about historical inaccuracies in Allegiance, I want to take this opportunity to speak openly about Densho’s involvement with the show.
Since August, Densho has worked closely with Allegiance’s production team to develop and advise on the historical content included in educational materials as well as in an FAQ featured on the Allegiance website. We’ve welcomed this opportunity as it falls squarely within our mission to expand awareness about WWII incarceration, while also allowing our archival materials to reach a new national audience.
Densho had no involvement in developing the script nor in the show’s production, but we take the critiques about the show’s historical inaccuracies seriously. We have encouraged the Allegiance team to address these critiques and they responded to this request by promptly adding several questions and responses to their online FAQ. While we regret that Allegiance doesn’t more accurately represent historical events, we also recognize the challenges inherent in dramatizing real life events and respect George Takei’s underlying goal of bringing broader awareness to WWII Japanese American incarceration.
Ultimately, we feel that with its national audience and thousands of social media followers, Allegiance is drawing significant attention to a story that was, for far too long, written out of American history altogether. Let’s see Allegiance as the start of a conversation. Please feel free to contact me at email@example.com with your thoughts.
—Tom Ikeda, Densho Executive Director
Planning to see Allegiance on Broadway? Here are four simple ways to learn more about World War II incarceration before–or after–you see the show:
- LEARN: Get a crash course in Japanese American history through this series of short videos and essays.
- READ: Densho Encyclopedia articles Executive Order 9066 | Heart Mountain Concentration Camp | Loyalty Questionnaire | Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee
- WATCH: Oral history interviews with individuals who lived at Heart Mountain during World War II.
- TEACH: Take our free online course for educators, featuring lesson plans, learning techniques, and primary source material.