7 Ways To Learn Japanese American History From the Comfort of your Home

As we navigate this new world of mandatory home time, many of us are finding ourselves suddenly having to set up makeshift schools for our kiddos, engage students online, or maybe brush up on our own history education to fill the extra time on our hands. Here are some resources from Densho and a few of our partners to help you do just that. 

1. The Aki Kurose Story

Densho worked with TedEd to develop this short film that teaches Japanese American history through the life of Aki Kurose. It’s paired with learning activities that students can do on their own, and has been updated with curriculum ideas for bringing the lessons into your virtual classroom.

>> Watch TedEd’s “Japanese American Incarceration Camps”
>> Curriculum and teaching ideas.

2. “Other”: A Brief History of American Xenophobia

The United States often touts itself as a “nation of immigrants,” but this obscures the real story: Our country was built by enslaved Africans and exploited immigrants on stolen Indigenous land. We must confront this history if we ever hope to heal from it.

Densho created this short video and accompanying lesson plan in order to help educators and students explore how these darker parts of American history are interconnected, and work together to build a more just and equitable future.

>> Watch “Other”: A Brief History of American Xenophobia”
>> Curriculum and teaching ideas.

3. Campu

Densho’s new podcast, Campu, tells the story of Japanese American incarceration like you’ve never heard it before. Brother-sister duo Noah and Hana Maruyama weave together the voices of survivors to spin narratives out of the seemingly mundane things that gave shape to the incarceration experience: rocks, fences, food, paper. Follow along as they move far beyond the standard Japanese American incarceration 101 and into more intimate and lesser-known corners of this history.

>> Learn more and listen
>> Campu Education Hub

4. The “Core Story” of Japanese American WWII Incarceration History

Learn the basics about World War II Japanese American incarceration through this series of short films and essays produced by Densho.

>> Watch the Densho “Core Story”

5. Documentaries to Watch Online for Free

 Still from The Nisei: The Pride and the Shame

There are several hundred documentaries about the forced removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. In the following blog posts, Densho content director Brian Niiya has curated a selection of some of the best of those films that are available for free online viewing:

In addition to these curated lists, Niiya notes that “Guilty by Reason of Race,” the 1972 documentary produced by NBC, is currently available online as well.

6. The Orange Story

One of the great things about this award-winning film and educational resource is that students can do it independently and move through at their own pace. Made by our friends at Full Spectrum Features, The Orange Story is an excellent home learning tool for high school and college-age learners.

>> Experience The Orange Story

7. “Betrayed by America”

This article published by Scholastic Magazine tells the story of Bill Hiroshi Shishima—an 11-year-old Japanese American boy who was forced to live in a World War II concentration camp. Scholastic pairs this article with activities, several of which could be easily adapted to online learning.
>> Read “Betrayed by America”

In addition to these nicely packaged learning activities, Densho’s archives, encyclopedia, and media resource guide present endless opportunities for students and adults to engage more deeply with Japanese American history.

>> Densho Digital Repository

>> Densho Encyclopedia

>> Densho Resource Guide to Media on the Japanese American Removal and Incarceration

We’d love to hear your ideas too! Leave a comment and let us know what you’ve been doing to teach or learn Japanese American history online!

Header photo: Rohwer concentration camp, McGehee, Arkansas, November 1942. Two young grade school students watch the camera as their pictures are being taken. Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

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