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seized her photographs, quietly depositing them in the National Archives, where they remained mostly unseen and unpublished until 2006.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—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.
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.
- Linda Gordon and Gary Y. Okihiro, Impounded: Dorothea Lange and the Censored Images of Japanese American Internment
- John Armor and Peter Wright, Manzanar: Photographs by Ansel Adams, Commentary by John Hersey
- Densho: Controlling the Historical Record: Photographs of the Japanese American Incarceration
- Jonah Engel Bromwich, New York Times: Trump Camp’s Talk of Registry and Japanese Internment Raises Muslims’ Fears
- Carl Takei, Los Angeles Times: The incarceration of Japanese Americans in World War II does not provide a legal cover for a Muslim registry
- ACLU: A Dark Moment in History: Japanese Internment Camps
- WW2 Japanese Relocation Camp Internee Records
- National Archives: Central Photographic File of the War Relocation Authority
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