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Ship Jumpers, Border Crossers, and Other “Illegal” Issei Immigrants

Here at Densho, we often draw parallels between the forced removal and subsequent incarceration of Japanese Americans from the West Coast and the treatment of marginalized groups today. Sadly, the…

Photo Essay: Hikaru Iwasaki’s Sunny Views of Resettlement Americana

While the photographs of Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange have helped shape visual understandings of World War II incarceration, there are many lesser known photographers who documented the Japanese American…

Japanese American man being searched by a police officer.

Of Spies and G-Men: How the U.S. Government Turned Japanese Americans into Enemies of the State

On December 7, 1941, Sumi Okamoto, then 21, was busy getting ready for her wedding. Oblivious to the reports of bombs falling on faraway Pearl Harbor, Sumi put on her…

Exceptions to the Rule: How Caretakers Helped Some Japanese American Families Minimize WWII Property Losses

Japanese Americans subject to forced removal seventy-five years ago suffered tragic losses of property, business assets, family heirlooms, and more. But there were some notable exceptions—cases where non-Japanese Americans stepped…

4 Bad Ass Issei Women You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

If you’re into strong women who like to color outside the lines and aren’t afraid to take what’s theirs, then you came to the right place, my friend. Following the…

Little Known Stories of Japanese Americans Who Resisted Incarceration

Stories of resistance to World War II incarceration often include Gordon Hirabayashi, Minoru Yasui, Fred Korematsu, and Mitsuye Endo. These are the most famous Japanese Americans who resisted the racially…

Japanese migrant strawberry pickers, possibly on Vashon Island, Washington.

Over More than a Hundred Years of Farm Labor History, Japanese and Mexican Americans Have Been Both Allies and Adversaries

Berry season is in full swing, with farmer’s markets and produce departments across the country overflowing with these quintessential summer fruits. But the story isn’t always so sweet for the migrant…

Stranded: Nisei in Japan Before, During, and After World War II

The story of the “strandees”—the period term for Nisei trapped in Japan when passage back to the U.S. was effectively cut off from late 1941 until a year two after…

A “doubly strange and bewildering day:” Views of July 4th From Behind Barbed Wire

Ah, the Fourth of July, that special day when we celebrate the wealthy colonialists and slaveowners who birthed our nation by drinking several tons of “America” and making stuff go…

Mitsuye Endo sitting at a desk typing on a typewriter. She is looking at the camera with a slight smile.

Mitsuye Endo: The Woman Behind the Landmark Supreme Court Case

Mitsuye Endo was a plaintiff in the landmark lawsuit that ultimately led to the closing of the concentration camps and the return of Japanese Americans to the West Coast in…

5 Bad Ass Japanese American Women Activists You Probably Didn’t Learn About in History Class

Since history tends to sideline the central role so many women played in the major social movements of the 20th century, here’s a little herstory lesson about five women warriors…

Letter from “Camp Harmony”: Kikuye Masuda Struggles to Adjust to Life at Puyallup

Hundreds of handwritten letters in the Densho archives provide an intimate view of the turmoil experienced by individuals during World War II incarceration. These letters add a human dimension to the incarceration…

Intersections of Black and Japanese American History: From Bronzeville to Black Lives Matter

During World War II, Black and Japanese American fates crossed in ways that neither group could have anticipated. While Japanese Americans were being forced to abandon the lives they’d built…

Shosuke Sasaki’s 20-Year Battle to Eradicate “Jap” from Print Media

In the 1950s, Shosuke Sasaki launched a campaign to have the word “Jap” re-classed as a racial slur and eliminated from print media. He would continue that work for the better part of the…

Japanese American Scouting Traditions: A Brief History and Photo Essay

The intersections between Japanese American history and scouting traditions run deep; two national news stories have called attention to that history in recent weeks.

Mae Kanazawa Hara and the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair

In this guest post, Sara Beckman demonstrates how pairing oral history with archival materials can lead to rich discoveries about the past. This is the first of three reflections from interns working…

“Uprooting Community”: New Book Examines the WWII Mass Incarceration of Japanese Mexicans

In her new book, Uprooting Community, Selfa A. Chew examines the lived experience of Japanese Mexicans in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands during World War II. Chew illuminates U.S.-backed efforts of the Mexican government to…

Intersections: Hispanic and Japanese American History

While the incarceration of people of Japanese descent throughout Latin America has been the focus of a number of studies, little has been written about interactions between Hispanic and Japanese American communities in…

Searching for LGBT Stories in Japanese American Incarceration History

June is Pride Month—an opportunity to celebrate the LGBT experience and to highlight ongoing struggles for equal rights. While Densho supports and celebrates LGBT individuals and communities, a look through…

Free Press behind Barbed Wire? Newspapers Published in the Concentration Camps

“A battalion of American troops of the 7th Army was cut off for a week near St. Die in France. All its attempts to break out were stopped by superior…

Elsa Kudo: Mother’s Hardships on the Journey from Peru

Elsa Kudo was born in Canete, Peru, where her parents ran a successful store. During World War II, her father was arrested, deported to the U.S., and held at the…

Pioneer Generation: Remembering the Issei

“They were early pioneers. And especially on farms it was very difficult for them.” –Kara Kondo

Dad was an Internment Camp Commandant

We came across an article worth sharing: “Reconnecting to Father’s ‘Mistake’ as Fort Missoula Commandant,” in the Missoulian newspaper tells how the daughter of the immigration officer in charge of…

Bad Meat and Missing Sugar: Food in the Japanese American Camps

“Americans are being rationed, and these Japs are getting steaks.” — Frank Kikuchi