70th Anniversary of Japanese-American Internment Marked by Art Exhibit, Photographs

Art from the Topaz War Relocation Camp, photos by Dorothea Lange and a Day of Remembrance event recall the internment of thousands of Bay Area Japanese Americans during World War II


Seventy years ago, on Feb. 19, 1942 – a little over two months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor – President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, authorizing evacuation of persons of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast.

Over 100,000 people, including many from Oakland, Alameda, Berkeley and nearby, were held in 10 remote camps for up to three years. Two-thirds of those displaced were American citizens.

In the Bay Area, the anniversary of the internment order is being marked by an art exhibit, an online photography display and a Day of Remembrance event.

Topaz Artists in Internment

An exhibit of work by artists interned in one of the isolated camps opened this weekend in San Leandro.

Topaz Artists In Internment, Their Visual Work And Words opened Feb. 18 and runs through March 31 at the San Leandro History Museum and Art Gallery, 320 W. Estudillo Ave., San Leandro. The works  will be on display from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends. Admission is free.

A reception featuring readings by poet Lawson Inada is scheduled for Feb. 25 from 2 to 5 p.m. To see a complete list of Topaz: Artists in Internment special events, click here. For more information about the opening or the exhibit itself, call 510-577-3991, Monday through Thursday.

The exhibition features the art of Japanese-Americans from the Topaz War Relocation Center. The San Leandro museum is only one of two places to host the collection, which is on loan from the Topaz Museum. The traveling exhibit is made possible by funding from the Western States Arts Federation, Utah Arts & Museums, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Photography of Dorothea Lange

Bay Area photographer Dorothea Lange, perhaps best-known for her photos of Dust Bowl migrant farm workers, also used her camera to document the relocation of Japanese Americans from the Bay Area.

The San Jose Mercury-News has collected more than 60 of those photos in an online slide show, along with a map showing where each picture was taken.

An accompanying article features interviews with 90-year-old activist Chizu Iiyama of El Cerrito, Richmond resident Yoshiro Tokiwa and others who spent part of their youth in the internment camps. Iiyama recalls receiving her UC Berkeley degree in psychology by mail while living in a horse stall after the relocation.

Photographer Ansel Adams also documented life in the camps. You can see some of those photographs online at the Library of Congress website.

Day of Remembrance

In San Francisco, a Day of Remembrance 2012 event is being held Sunday, Feb. 19, from 2 to 4 p.m. at Sundance Kabuki Cinema, 1881 Post St. The free program includes speeches, entertainment and a candle-lighting ceremony. It will be followed by a reception at the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California, 1840 Sutter St., San Francisco. See details of the program here.

Fred Korematsu in National Portrait Gallery

Fred Korematsu, who lost a court case to overturn the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II but was vindicated by history, has been honored again by being added to the National Portrait Gallery.

Pictures of this East Bay hero will be added to an exhibition titled, "The Struggle for Justice." A blog entry from the Gallery written earlier this month says:

"Korematsu challenged the government’s right to detain American citizens under President Franklin Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, but lost his case in 1944. The legal protest was dormant until 1983, when Korematsu appealed to have the case reopened and was subsequently given a favorable judgment by the Supreme Court. Ultimately, thanks to Korematsu’s courageous and persistent stand, surviving victims of the internment were awarded $20,000 each."

A story in Hyphen, a magazine on Asian American interests and issues, details Korematsu's long struggle to win recognition and some degree of recompense for the internment, which was supported at the time by then-California governor and later Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren.

In his biography Warren said: "I have since deeply regretted the removal order and my own testimony advocating it."

LTWILTON February 19, 2012 at 03:53 PM
Any time we see discrimination against a group of people, we need to remember this.
Michael February 19, 2012 at 08:00 PM
Instructions to All Persons of Japanese Ancestry http://altoarizona.com/images/japanese-internment-poster-opt.jpg Trying substituting your own ancestry in place of "Japanese" to get a somewhat different perspective.
LTWILTON February 19, 2012 at 09:34 PM
Truly dark days in our history ...
James Chen February 29, 2012 at 12:21 AM
Glad to see President Franklin Roosevelt's (D) name mentioned (after all, he signed the order), along with Earl Warren (then Rep. Gov. of California), but let's not forget that the Supreme Court voted 6-3 to uphold the order. Racism crosses party lines, it seems.


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