Dorothea Lange’s Censored Photos From the U....

Dorothea Lange’s Censored Photos From the U.S. Japanese Internment Camps Remind Us of an American Atrocity.

In 1942, an estimated 127,000 Japanese-Americans were ordered to evacuate the West Coast, and “relocate” to one of 10 internment camps, following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Decemeber 7, 1941. We all remember this from our American history class, right? Well, the facts definitely ring a bell, but what was not shown in class, were the previously censored photos that FSA photographer, Dorothea Lange took, documenting life in the camps.

Seeing the faces of all these innocent civilians being stripped of all cultural pride and reduced to living in squalor made this historical atrocity more than just something in our history books. Rather, it serves as more of a topical reminder of what could happen if we allow hate and fear catalyze into a national tragedy.

Original article posted on Anchor Editions Blog, written by Tim Chambers.

Click Here to Read Original Post.

For a complete bio of Dorothea Lange and a compilation of her work, check out Artsy.


Dorothea Lange’s Censored Photographs of FDR’s Japanese Concentration Camps

The military seized her photographs, quietly depositing them in the National Archives, where they remained mostly unseen and unpublished until 2006.

Dorothea Lange's Migrant Mother photograph from 1936

Dorothea Lange—well-known for her FSA photographs like Migrant Mother—was hired by the U.S. government to make a photographic record of the “evacuation” and “relocation” of Japanese-Americans in 1942. She was eager to take the commission, despite being opposed to the effort, as she believed “a true record of the evacuation would be valuable in the future.”

The military commanders that reviewed her work realized that Lange’s contrary point of view was evident through her photographs, and seized them for the duration of World War II, even writing “Impounded” across some of the prints. The photos were quietly deposited into the National Archives, where they remained largely unseen until 2006.

I wrote more about the history of Lange’s photos and President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 initiating the Japanese Internment in another post on the Anchor Editions Blog.

Below, I’ve selected some of Lange’s photos from the National Archives—including the captions she wrote—pairing them with quotes from people who were imprisoned in the camps, as quoted in the excellent book, Impounded: Dorothea Lange and the Censored Images of Japanese American Internment.

I’ve also made a limited number of prints of her photos available for sale at Anchor Editions, and I’m donating 50% of the proceeds to the ACLU—they were there during WWII handling the two principal Supreme Court cases, fighting against the government’s mass incarceration of Japanese-Americans—and they have pledged to continue to fight against further unconstitutional civil rights violations. Their fight seems especially important today given the current tide of anti-Muslim rhetoric, and talk of national registries and reactionary immigration policies.

“A photographic record could protect against false allegations of mistreatment and violations of international law, but it carried the risk, of course, of documenting actual mistreatment.”

— Linda Gordon, Impounded: Dorothea Lange and the Censored Images of Japanese American Internment
 PRINT AVAILABLE April 25, 1942 — San Francisco, California. Residents of Japanese ancestry appear for registration prior to evacuation. Evacuees will be housed in War Relocation Authority centers for the duration.

“We couldn’t do anything about the orders from the U.S. government. I just lived from day to day without any purpose. I felt empty.… I frittered away every day. I don’t remember anything much.… I just felt vacant.”

— Osuke Takizawa, Tanforan Assembly Center, San Bruno

“We went down Pine Street down to Fillmore to the number 22 streetcar, and he took the 22 streetcar and went to the SP (Southern Pacific) and took the train to San Jose. And that was the last time I saw him.”

— Donald Nakahata, describing when his father, a journalist, left San Francisco to help Japanese Americans in San Jose on December 8, 1941

“As a result of the interview, my family name was reduced to No. 13660. I was given several tags bearing the family number, and was then dismissed…. Baggage was piled on the sidewalk the full length of the block. Greyhound buses were lined alongside the curb.”

— Mine Okubo, Tanforan Assembly Center, San Bruno
PRINT AVAILABLE May 2, 1942 — Byron, California. Third generation of American children of Japanese ancestry in crowd awaiting the arrival of the next bus which will take them from their homes to the Assembly center.
PRINT AVAILABLE April 28, 1942 — Byron, California. Field laborers of Japanese ancestry in front of Wartime Civil Control Administration station where they have come for instructions and assistance in regard to their evacuation due in three days under Civilian Exclusion Order Number 24. This order affects 850 persons in this area. The men are now waiting for the truck which will take them, with the rest of the field crew, back to the large-scale delta ranch.

“A Caucasian farmer representing a company was trying to get his workers to continue working in the asparagus fields until Saturday when they were scheduled to leave. The workers wanted to quit tonight in order to have time to get cleaned up, wash their clothes, etc.”

— Dorothea Lange

“The Japanese race is an enemy race and while many second and third generation Japanese born on American soil, possessed of American citizenship, have be come ‘Americanized,’ the racial strains are undiluted.

…It, therefore, follows that along the vital Pacific Coast over 112,000 potential enemies, of Japanese extraction, are at large today. There are indications that these are organized and ready for concerted action at a favorable opportunity.

The very fact that no sabotage has taken place to date is a disturbing and confirming indication that such action will be taken.”

— General John L. DeWitt, head of the U.S. Army’s Western Defense Command

“What arrangements and plans have been made relative to concentration camps in the Hawaiian Islands for dangerous or undesirable aliens or citizens in the event of national emergency?”

— Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States, August 10, 1936 in a note to the military Joint Board

“Go ahead and do anything you think necessary… if it involves citizens, we will take care of them too. He [the President] says there will probably be some repercussions, but it has got to be dictated by military necessity, but as he puts it, ‘Be as reasonable as you can.’”

— Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson, summarizing instructions from President Franklin D. Roosevelt given February 11, 1942

About Shelby Newallis

Ciao, there. I'm Shelby, your classic recent-ish grad stereotype trying to figure out how to make it in Los Angeles. By day, I'm a Special Education Teacher and by night, I'm a TV serialist, culinary enthusiast, writer/editor. When I'm not planning my next trip, I'm either wikipedia-ing random celebrities, trying to figure out which podcasts are cool or researching new happy hour spots. Intrigued? Check out my website,