Saturday, October 9, 2010

Sepia Saturday: Manzanar

The incarceration of people of Japanese heritage 
in prison camps during World War II, 
the plundering of their property,
and shunning of them as possibly traitorous "others"  
was a shameful event in American history. 

Ansel Adams took photographs memorializing
life at one of the "relocation centers," Manzanar.
It was, like other incarceration sites,
remote from people's homes and inhospitable
in many respects. 

Winters could be harsh;

summer heat could be brutal.

This summer view of the site was taken from the guard tower. 

I suspect most of the photos of people were staged 
to show life in the camps as tolerable and  
even beneficial, not because it was true
but rather to assuage the guilt
of government officials.

 This photo shows Mrs. Ryie Yoshizawa 
teaching a class in dressmaking and tailoring
 at Manzanar. A young woman stands 
at a dressmaker's form in the foreground, 
pretending to do a fitting. 

Here, Mrs. Yoshizawa is surrounded 
by students Satoka Ota, Chizuko Karnii, 
Takako Nakanishi, Kikiyo Yamasuchi, 
Masako Kimochita, Mitsugo Fugi, Mie Mio, 
Chiye Kawase, and Miyeko Hoshozike.

The round-up and incarceration of people of Japanese descent,
over 2/3 of them American citizens,
was ordered by President Franklin Roosevelt
under the guise of military necessity.
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor,
key political leaders claimed --
without evidence --
that all people of Japanese heritage
posed a threat to U.S. security.

In 1983, however, 
the Congressional Commission 
on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians
reported it had uncovered evidence from the 1940s
proving that there had been no military necessity
for this harsh, humiliating, and racially-biased treatment.

The 1988 Civil Liberties Act
awarded $20,000 to each victim as reparations.
The President issued a written apology
for this systemic wrongdoing.

Yet the effects live on.
Health studies show a two-fold greater incident
heart disease and risk of premature death
of those Japanese -Americans who were incarcerated,
as compared to Japanese-Americans who were not.

(All photos in this piece are by Ansel Adams,
courtesy of the Library of Congress photo collection).

For more information on this tragic time in American history,

The PBS website "Children of the Camps."

For more Sepia Saturday words and images, click here.


CrazyasaCoolFox said...

How ironic that it was the same Ansel Adams who photographed America's beauty at Yosemite, also photographed the ugly side of America. Thanks for sharing, and thanks for visiting my blog.

Barbara said...

Will we never learn? I wish we could learn from history, but we never seem to. I have a friend who was interned. He started out at the Santa Anita Race Track- housed in the horse stalls. To this day he can't stand the smell of horse manure. He had the last laugh, though because he and his family recovered from that experience to become very, very wealthy. They had a lot of perseverance.

Joan said...

Oh yes, if only we could learn from history.. such an interesting post. Thank you.

Martin H. said...

This is an episode in American history, I knew little about, until now. I believe we did something similar to people of German birth, during WW1.

tony said...

It Must Be Very Difficult Being "The Other" in Times of War.
I cant help thinking this has echoes with how Muslims are thought of today in England & the USA?

Your Genetic Genealogist said...

Thank you for reminding us all of this tragic period in our history that doesn't get much attention. As Crazyasacoolfox mentioned it is ironic that Ansel Adams photographed these places. It is definitely not what most people would think of when they hear his name.

Nancy said...

What a sad and difficult time for those wrongly removed from their homes and properties. Not as bad as what the Nazis did to the Jews (and others), but still wrong. I think there are several (or more) films focused on this time period in history. I watched a documentary and fiction movie and both were very good. (Sorry I can't remember the names.)


that is the sin of "profiling"... which is still done by the police department and other instances revolving around national security.

for a culture based on honor, of the self, of the family and of the nation, this was an irreparable and shameful affront, and not only americans are guilty of such things. sad that tensed situations make us act as the basest of creatures.

an interesting and necessary post. such things shouldn't be brushed off under the carpet...

Alan Burnett said...

What wonderful photographs they were as well. You are right to remind us of a time in history when everyone had at least a few deeds they have come to be ashamed of. Thanks.

L. D. Burgus said...

Considering how we treated the Native American Indians and how the mistreatment of children followed it way over here, I am glad we were as civilize as we were. It was a horrible thing to do.

Christine H. said...

Thanks so much for this post. I knew some California families who lost homes and businesses because of this. Yet they just picked up after the war and started from scratch with no apparent bitterness. I found it both puzzling and admirable.