Ugly History: Japanese-American internment camps – Densho

Ugly History: Japanese-American internment camps – Densho

On December 7, 1941, 16 year-old Aki Kurose shared in the
horror of millions of Americans when Japanese planes
attacked Pearl Harbor. What she did not know, was how that shared experience would soon leave her family and
over 120,000 Japanese Americans alienated from their country, both socially and physically. As of 1941, Japanese American communities had been
growing in the US for over 50 years. About one-third of them were immigrants, many of whom settled on the West Coast
and had lived there for decades. The rest were born as American citizens,
like Aki. Born Akiko Kato in Seattle, Aki grew up in a diverse neighborhood where she never thought of herself
as anything but American– until the day after the attack, when a
teacher told her: “You people bombed Pearl Harbor.” Amid racism, paranoia,
and fears of sabotage, people labelled Japanese Americans
as potential traitors. FBI agents began to search homes,
confiscate belongings and detain community leaders
without trial. Aki’s family was not immediately subjected
to these extreme measures, but on February 19, 1942, President
Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066. The order authorized the removal of any
suspected enemies– including anyone of even
partial Japanese heritage– from designated ‘military areas.’ At first, Japanese Americans were pushed to leave
restricted areas and migrate inland. But as the government froze
their bank accounts and imposed local restrictions
such as curfews, many were unable to leave–
Aki’s family among them. In March, a proclamation forbid Japanese
Americans from changing their residency, trapping them in military zones. In May, the army moved Aki and her family, along with over 7,000 Japanese Americans
living in Seattle to “Camp Harmony”
in Puyallup, Washington. This was one of several makeshift
detention centers at former fairgrounds and racetracks, where entire families were packed into
poorly converted stables and barracks. Over the ensuing months, the army moved Japanese Americans
into long-term camps in desolate areas of the West and South, moving Aki and her family to
Minidoka in southern Idaho. Guarded by armed soldiers, many of these camps were still being
constructed when incarcerees moved in. These hastily built prisons were
overcrowded and unsanitary. People frequently fell ill and were unable
to receive proper medical care. The War Relocation Authority relied on
incarcerees to keep the camps running. Many worked in camp facilities or taught
in poorly equipped classrooms, while others raised crops and animals. Some Japanese Americans rebelled,
organizing labor strikes and even rioting. But many more,
like Aki’s parents, endured. They constantly sought to recreate some
semblance of life outside the camps, but the reality of their
situation was unavoidable. Like many younger incarcerees,
Aki was determined to leave her camp. She finished her final year
of high school at Minidoka, and with the aid of an anti-racist Quaker
organization, she was able to enroll at
Friends University in Kansas. For Aki’s family however, things wouldn’t
begin to change until late 1944. A landmark Supreme Court case ruled that continued detention of American
citizens without charges was unconstitutional. In the fall of 1945, the war ended and the camps closed down. Remaining incarcerees
were given a mere $25 and a train ticket to their
pre-war address, but many no longer had a home
or job to return to. Aki’s family had been able to
keep their apartment, and Aki eventually returned
to Seattle after college. However, post-war prejudice
made finding work difficult. Incarcarees faced discrimination
and resentment from workers and tenants
who replaced them. Fortunately, Japanese Americans
weren’t alone in the fight against
racial discrimination. Aki found work with one of Seattle’s first
interracial labor unions and joined the Congress
of Racial Equality. She became a teacher,
and over the next several decades, her advocacy for multicultural, socially
conscious education would impact thousands of students. However, many ex-incarcerees,
particularly members of older generations, were unable to rebuild
their lives after the war. Children of incarcerees began a movement calling for the United States to atone
for this historic injustice. In 1988, the US government officially
apologized for the wartime incarceration– admitting it was the catastrophic result
of racism, hysteria, and failed political leadership. Three years after this apology, Aki Kurose was awarded the
Human Rights Award from the Seattle Chapter
of the United Nations, celebrating her vision of peace and
respect for people of all backgrounds.

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About the Author: Sam Caldwell


  1. So what, China currently has concentration camps for Uyghurs, and they don't need a war to justify it. Did the government of States or any Europe country protest against it in any way…

  2. So many Japanese-Americans were devoted to USA, which is thier mother country, like as the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Even so-called "war criminal" Tojo Hideki, general of the Imperial Japanese, sent a letter to Japanese-American students "you second generations of Japanese-American are very American citizens, so it is no wonder you loyal to USA."

  3. Let's not forget that this happened in Canada too; to this day it is not often talked about or taught in school (it is brushed over a few times but not to the extent that we actually pushed Canadian citizens of Japanese ancestry out of their homes, cities…) but, education is key to righting past wrongs and creating a better present and future. In Canada, we embrace the "mosaic" of cultures that came together to create our country…but we need to acknowledge the wrongs of the past to make everyone who lives here feel like they are home.

  4. it isn't about being better or worst. it is about not making the same mistakes again, not with japanese, not with mexicans. with no one.

  5. How would they have even known if certain citizens were part Japanese unless they state it in papers. So they checked everyone's birth certificate? And even then American military wouldn't know they're part Japanese if it doesn't state. No ones got time in war to check at all the papers. They probably just took a look at any Asian and sent many of them to camps. Even if they're Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Filipino, etc. Sad.

  6. It was the standar of war on those times, Germans were put in camps, aswell italians and japanese. We like it or not, is war and national security what push those actions.

  7. Hello to those random people scrolling in the comments.

    Im a student and ive been a fan of ted ed for three years now. I really like the riddles especially the three wizards riddle and I need your help help me please im desperate its for grades please.

    If youre willing to help me you just have to like or share or both my poster about global warming heres the link

    Please please help me its just for grades please

  8. —Hey, dude, you heard about Pearl-Harbour? Maybe we should join the war effort against Nazis and militarists?
    —Nah, I'll just start pressing my Japanese Neighbors. See, it's easier to combat elderly, children and other civilians.

  9. An important thing to mention is that Japanese spies disguised as civillians spied in the USA for Japan and sent documents about military and naval bases to Japan

  10. Today, it's the equivalence to being put in a run-down, cheap hostel for four years, given a couple hundred bucks and a taxi ride as compensation and then forty years later the government goes, "damn that was kinda bad we're sorry" after everyone was struggling to stay afloat. I hate the U.S. government.

  11. 'Snow Falling on Cedars' (1999) is one my all-time favorite movies.

    There is a beautiful montage in the film's middle where Japanese families are sent to Manzanar internment camp.

    P.S. 'Come See the Paradise' (1991) is an underrated movie about this same dark subject.

    P.P.S. Credit to Colorado governor, Ralph Lawrence Carr, the only elected official to denounce Japanese internment. He unfortunately lost his job for his integrity.

  12. Such a tragedy. We as Americans need to be better and be on the lookout when that same hysteria and racism takes hold. I wonder, have we been better? Are we failing now?

  13. you were kidding by the end right about justice and the end of racism?? the history of US never moved passed racism back then it was Japanese-American and before it was people from Africa and today its Muslims and Muslims country and in 80 years from now they will say that they were sorry for the terrible things that they done to us while doing it to someone else.

  14. I’m not going to say America was the bad guy here they where fearful for themselves and there children so much so that they forgot that those are people too with children and family it’s understandable why it happened but it is sad and hopefully we’ll learn from this mistake

  15. Truth to be told, the same thing has also happened in the British Raj. For example, British officials were detaining anyone sympathetic to the Indian National Army, who was a rebellion movement that had taken British controlled Burma, which received funding from the Empire of Japan. The peaceful protesters that were against British rule at the time of the war were tossed in jail for merely "Collaboration with the Enemy." In Post WW2 My grandfather who was a child at the time had witnessed the horrors of what was going on; the British Raj was the most massive volunteer army in the entire conflict of 2 million members of the armed forces. However, What did India get in return? Nothing. The Country was split into 4 Different parts, and worst of all the veterans of the war were sunned from society within the new republics of India and Pakistan for helping the British.

    In conclusion, the allies did not do anything to help the recovering Asian countries in the Post-war era; they just sat around watching the European countries rebuilding. Now you may ask well how does this relate to this video? Many troops fought for freedom and excepted to get independence in their home country. But in the sad reality, the soldiers never got anything in return.

    The same applies to the Akune brothers who had also faced racism, discrimination, and cruelty when fighting for the allied side, only to find their brothers labeling them as traditors only to help the enemy.

    Peace begins with a smile.
    -Mother Teresa

  16. These are by definition concentration camps, why don't we call them that? Why do we use a less heinous word for what happened? Do we want to continue to under play the historical severity of what occurred?

  17. WOW – TED- Ed you are really one eyed! Why don't you do a video on the horrors the Japanese inflicted on Prisoners of War in WW II. These horrors were not acknowledged by subsequent Japanese governments or written about in their history books.

  18. Japan is about to have another war(probably ww3). But USA doesn't seem to care about it that much. Current Prime minister of Japan,Abe, is a grandson of class A war criminal like a hitler's grandson. But no one in USA seems bothered by the fact. American only learn a good part of their history.

  19. That's why I'm so disappointed with the 20th century's US. They portrayed themselves as the heroes in pop culture even if they had committed (some of) the same crimes their enemies were accused of.

  20. What grinds my gears the most is how almost 100% of Japanese people adore Americans and American culture. They dream of being Americans and doing their stuff. Even after all that's happened historically.
    I say this because I've been living in Japan a while now

  21. I knew about this thank of a Cold Case episode, but I never heard of this part of history elsewhere. We always remember what is more convenient and less incriminating for the winners.

  22. An all Japanese-American infantry unit was assembled during ww2 known as the 442nd Infantry.

    This regiment would go on to become the most decorated in all American history.

    In the face of racial oppression the husbands, fathers and sons of the interned Japanese-Americans, answered the call of America to fight the Axis powers.


  23. I learned this from Linkin Park group member guy, Japanese descendent, had his dad experiencing these camps, told the story in an interview by Trevor Noah.

  24. Can't wait for a video in 100 years talking about the persecution of muslims worldwide, after the damage has been done and it isn't a touchy subject of course!

  25. It's not so much a crime of hate, as a decision of wartime from concern. It was not without its rationale, flawed as it may be. It was a rash decision from a feared perspective. I'm not condoning the actions; but, with loyalty strong enough for suicide bombers to exist, I can understand their reasoning. In the end, we recognized our mistake. Every nation across the world has done something considered heinous. When such mistakes occur, we can try to make measures that don't allow them to happen again. Acknowledging the wrongdoing is first; then, remembering it. But, if no precautions have been created for a mistake that's occurred multiple times over in history, then that remembrance means nothing.

  26. I know their concerns, but doing this seems like a surefire way to turn you own citizens against you, turning the loyal Japanese Americans into fascist sympathisers.

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