Japanese-American Internment During World War II
This lesson correlates to the National History Standards.
- Era 8 -The Great Depression and World War II (1929-1945)
- Standard 3C -Demonstrate the understanding of the effects of World War II at home.
This lesson correlates to the National Standards for Civics and Government.
- Standard I.C.2. -Explain the various purposes served by constitutions.
- Standard IV.B.2. -Evaluate, take, and defend positions on foreign policy issues in light of American national interests, values, and principles.
- Standard IV.B.1. -Evaluate, take, and defend positions on issues regarding personal rights.
- Standard IV.B.1. -Evaluate, take, and defend positions on issues regarding political rights.
This lesson relates to the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution. The Fourth Amendment upholds the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures. The Fifth Amendment guarantees that Americans will not be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. The First Amendment ensures Americans the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Share this lesson with your colleagues who teach English, Government, and American Studies.
Analyzing the Document
- Direct students to read about World War II and the internment of persons of Japanese descent in their textbooks. For further background on the U.S. entrance into the war, analyze President Roosevelt's December 8, 1941, speech. The National Archives has developed a lesson plan for this famous speech.
- Provide students with additional information about the decision to intern persons of Japanese descent from the Historical Background essay, the text of the conference between DeWitt and Rowe (Document 1), and the Final Report (Document 2). Provide each student with a copy of the text of Executive Order 9066. Direct students to read the text and lead the class in a discussion of the document using the Document Analysis Worksheet or the following questions: What type of document is it? What is the date of the document? Who wrote the document? What is the purpose of the document? What information in the document helps you understand why it was written? What additional questions does the document prompt?
- Explain to students that as a result of Executive Order 9066, Japanese Americans were notified and quickly relocated to internment camps. Divide students into five different groups: Notification Part A, Notification Part B, Relocation, Relocation Center Part A, and Relocation Center Part B. Distribute three copies of the Photograph Analysis Worksheet and Documents 4-6 to the Notification Part A group; three copies of the Photograph Analysis Worksheet and Documents 7-9 to the Notification Part B group; four copies of the Photograph Analysis Worksheet and Documents 10-13 to the Relocation group; three copies of the Photograph Analysis Worksheet and Documents 14-16 to the Relocation Part A group; and four copies of the Photograph Analysis Worksheet and Documents 17-20 to the Relocation Part B group. Instruct the student groups to complete one worksheet for each photograph. Ask a volunteer from each group to describe the group's set of photographs to the class and explain what the documents reveal about internment.
- Direct each group from Activity 3 to write a dialogue and present it in front of their classmates.
Students in the Notification Part A group could create a dialogue between members of a family that for 25 years has owned a business. The family might be docile in its acceptance of Executive Order 9066 or angry and antagonistic toward the implications of the order. Both responses could occur within the family.
Students in the Notification Part B group could create a dialogue between the parents and two children shown in the photograph of Raphael Weill Public School, San Francisco, in which the children ask some poignant questions about relocation. Students in this group could also create a dialogue between the parents and older children of the Shibuya or Futamachi families as they discuss their options in response to Executive Order 9066.
Students in the Relocation group could create a dialogue between an old man (in his early 80s) and a young woman (high school age) who are discussing their futures as they look toward the inevitable internment at a relocation center; or between two adult neighbors who are discussing the practical aspects of getting their families organized for the move; or between two adult neighbors who are discussing the injustice of being removed from home and workplace.
Students in the Relocation Center Part A group could create a dialogue between two high-school-aged Japanese Americans in a relocation center who are discussing the confusion in their lives caused by internment.
Students in the Relocation Center Part B group could create a dialogue between members of the Hirano family and another relocated family who are discussing patriotism and relocation policy.
- After each dialogue in Activity 4 is presented, lead the class in a follow-up discussion. Ask students: In what way were the constitutional rights of Americans of Japanese ancestry violated during World War II? What sacrifices did Americans of Japanese ancestry have to make? Did these sacrifices help to ensure liberty worldwide?
- Inform students that in 1948 Congress passed a law that reimbursed internees for property losses and that 40 years later Congress awarded restitution payments of $20,000 to each survivor of the camps through the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 (H.R. 442). Direct students to conduct research on these two acts of Congress using library and Internet resources. Ask them to locate three different sources, list bibliographic information about each, indicate whether the sources were in favor or against the reparations, and explain how they can tell. Next, ask students to write a one-page position paper expressing their thoughts on the legislative acts.
- Tell students that at the time of relocation, three individuals legally challenged the constitutionality of the relocation and curfew orders. Divide students into three groups. Assign the first group to research the court case of Gordon Hirabayashi, the second group to research the court case of Fred Korematsu, and the third group to research the court case of Mitsuye Endo. Ask a volunteer from each group to report to the class about the case, explaining who was involved, the arguments presented, and the results. Lead a class discussion comparing the arguments presented in the court cases with the purpose of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 (H.R. 442).
The documents included in this project are from the records of the U. S. District Court, Northern District of California, and Record Group 210, Records of the War Relocation Authority. They are available online through the National Archives Catalog National Archives Identifiers: