Remembering the Japanese American Incarceration
Presented by The Friends of Topaz.
In the spring of 1942, following the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on a US naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the US government and Army, citing "military necessity," removed over 120,000 men, women, and children of Japanese ancestry from their West Coast homes and forced them into ten remote camps scattered across the US. One of those camps was Topaz Relocation Center near Delta, Utah. Two-thirds of those incarcerated were American citizens, most children of Japanese immigrants (Issei) who were prevented by law from becoming US citizens despite some having lived and worked in the US for decades. None were convicted or charged with a crime before incarceration; yet they were confined behind barbed wire under harsh conditions and armed guard, many until World War II ended in 1945.
In 1982, a US government commission concluded this tragedy had been the result of "race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership." More than 40 years after the last camp closed, President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, and President George H.W. Bush issued a formal apology and monetary compensation to all survivors who were still living.
The Friends of the Topaz Museum is proud to present a selection of Topaz Stories, a collection of narratives from Topaz survivors and descendants. The collection began with our own family stories and has grown to about 80 stories from more than 45 contributors. Some include personal photographs not shared publicly elsewhere. Topaz Stories have been previously exhibited in Emeryville, CA in 2019 and the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City in 2022.
It took a long time for many Japanese Americans to talk about the camps-the memories were too painful, the divisions caused within the community, even families, too deep. When they began speaking out, it was to ensure that such a travesty of justice would not happen again. We would like to thank our contributors for sharing their stories. As the generation of survivors grows smaller each year, we hope that their individual faces and varied voices will be a lasting reminder of the human consequences of injustice.
- Ruth Sasaki, editor, and the Topaz Stories team: Ann Tamaki Dion, Kimi Hill, Barbara Saito, Ken Yamashita, Kay Yatabe and Jonathan Hirabayashi (exhibit designer), on behalf of the Topaz Museum.
To learn more about Topaz, plan a trip to the Topaz Museum in Delta, topazmuseum.org
To learn more about the exhibit visit: topazstories.com
Left: image: Norm and Pat Hayashi. Courtesy of Norman Hayashi.
Right image: James and son Dan Hirano. Courtesy of Dan Hirano.
- Press release for your school or institution to distribute.
- The Topaz Stories Contributors
- Educational Materials
2023-2024 Traveling Schedule
Completed in June 2023