In July 1981, congressional hearings on Japanese American WWII incarceration began in the nation’s capitol. For two days, witnesses spoke out to expose the cruel facts and painful memories surrounding this history, and to lend their voices to a growing call for reparations. It was the first of eleven hearings that would make their way across the country, culminating in an official acknowledgement that the wartime government had acted on racial prejudice rather than “military necessity” — and a recommendation for monetary redress.
Each month, Densho Content Director Brian Niiya will answer your questions about the WWII incarceration of Japanese Americans — the small details of life in camp, the rumors and myths that have become embedded in this history over time, and everything in between. In this edition of “Ask a Historian,” Brian responds to questions about photographers who documented the camp experience and Arizona’s history of anti-Japanese agitation.
High school students (ages 14-18) are invited to join Densho for a hands-on history and zine-making workshop on August 19th, 2021. Drawing upon the lessons handed down to us from our activist elders, we’ll explore the archives of GIDRA, a radical newsletter that served as the voice of the Asian American movement from 1969-74.
Joe Yasutake was only nine years old when his father was apprehended by the FBI and interned as an enemy alien. In a matter of hours following the attack on Pearl Harbor, his peaceful Seattle childhood was replaced with family separation, forced removal, and life inside a series of detention facilities and concentration camps.
As a musician, artist, and activist, Nobuko Miyamoto has long used art to create social change and solidarity across cultural borders. Her new memoir, Not Yo’ Butterfly: My Long Song of Relocation, Race, Love and Revolution, retraces that journey, from her early years in a WWII incarceration camp to her involvement in the Asian American and Black Liberation movements. In this excerpt from Not Yo’ Butterfly, Miyamoto describes joining a group of young Asian American activists on a revelatory trip to the Black Panthers headquarters in Chicago in 1970.
Okaeri is a Los Angeles-based resource and support group whose mission is to create visibility, compassionate spaces, and transformation for LGBTQ+ Nikkei and their families by sharing our stories and providing culturally-rooted support, education, community-building, and advocacy. Okaeri Co-Chairs Stan Yogi, Marsha Aizumi, and Justin Kawaguchi joined Densho Communications and Public Engagement Director Natasha Varner for a Zoom call and subsequent email correspondence to tell us a little more about the work they do.
Let’s face it. It’s hard to find queer voices within Asian American history. They’re often erased from both mainstream (read: white) LGBTQ and Asian American narratives — but thanks to the work of some brilliant historians and community activists, that’s beginning to change. In recent years, more of these stories have become available online in the form of archives, films, and other digital projects.
Do you have a burning question about Japanese American history? A piece of family lore you’re not sure is myth or fact? Brian Niiya, Densho’s Content Director and basically a walking encyclopedia of all things related to WWII incarceration, has got you covered. He’ll be answering real questions from real people in this new, recurring series—so ask us anything!
The resistance of nearly 300 young men who refused to be drafted into the U.S. military out of U.S. concentration camps has become a prominent part of the Japanese American WWII incarceration story. Maligned as disloyal troublemakers for decades after the war, members of the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee and other draft resisters are rightfully recognized as civil rights heroes today. But there is an equally inspiring — and largely forgotten — story about hundreds of Issei mothers who also protested the draft from within the camps.
The first of America’s WWII concentration camps to be built, Manzanar was first at a lot of other things as well: the first to have an official historic marker, the site of the first public camp pilgrimage, the first to become a unit of the National Park Service, among other things. In addition to its extensive parks and gardens, and the iconic “Ireito” monument, Manzanar is also well known for the infamous “riot” (now more commonly referred to as an uprising) of December 1942, as the site of the Manzanar Children’s Village orphanage, and of an experimental guayule (a rubber substitute) project as well as one of three WRA camps to have a camouflage net factory.
- Photo Essay: Japanese Americans Demand “Justice Long Overdue” at 1981 Redress Hearings
- Ask a Historian: What’s the Story Behind Ansel Adams’ Famous Manzanar Photos?
- “Truth Is Not Always Pretty”: A Radical History and Zine Making Workshop
- Sites of Shame traces the paths of Japanese Americans forced into camps during WWII
- How the Asian American Movement Learned a Lesson in Liberation from the Black Panthers
- after camp
- Ask a Historian
- book review
- camp life
- current events
- Densho statement
- film review
- guest post
- hidden histories
- In memoriam
- open letter
- oral history
- Pacific Northwest
- photo essay
- popular culture
- Redress Movement