The Colors of Japanese Internment
February 19, 2017 12:46 PM   Subscribe

Similar questions might have echoed in the mind of the internee Bill Manbo, a car mechanic from Riverside, California, when he picked up a camera to document his surroundings after months of captivity at the Heart Mountain camp, in Wyoming. Though internees were initially prohibited from bringing cameras into the camps, that rule was loosened at Heart Mountain in 1943. The photographs of another internee, Toyo Miyatake, who was sent to Manzanar, in California, and assembled a makeshift camera from a lens that he had smuggled inside, have become essential records of the incarceration. But of all the most famous images of Japanese internment by either internees or government-hired photographers, only Manbo’s were in color. posted by not_the_water (19 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
I'm impressed that Manbo was able to get color film in an internment camp. Even Hollywood had problems getting color film during the height of the war.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:04 PM on February 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Coincidentally, today is the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, which authorized Japanese internment.
posted by rhizome at 1:13 PM on February 19, 2017 [5 favorites]

So great, thanks for sharing!

There's been some really amazing historical archaeology at Japanese internment camps, too, maybe most notably at Amache, under Bonnie Clark of Denver University, but I also know of some an Kooskia and Manzanar (and I'm sure elsewhere, as well). Material traces of garden plots, gaming pieces, food containers, and so on, all point to the patterns of life that the internees adopted, and especially alongside interviews and photographs like these, can tell us a lot about the lived experience of being subjected to internment. What it meant to be first- or second-generation, what it meant for the older generations to create the semblance of a traditional Japanese environment vs. the younger (US-born) generation's conspicuous consumption American products as ways of asserting their American citizenship. It's really fascinating and important work, and definitely very timely in the new administration.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:34 PM on February 19, 2017 [4 favorites]

Auraria Library in Denver has several digital collections dedicated to Camp Amache and they can be found here:

Also, thanks shapes that haunt the dusk you beat me to it.
posted by evilDoug at 2:04 PM on February 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

Great post; I urge everyone to read the "Why Terminology Matters" link if you're not already immersed in this stuff. My respect for Dorothea Lange has become even greater (text from second link):
The agency had hoped Lange's photos would depict the process as orderly and humane.

But the hundreds of photos that Lange turned over did the opposite. She considered internment a grave injustice, and her photos depict it that way. She captured the confused and chaotic scenes of Japanese-Americans crowding onto buses and trains, the stressed and confused looks on their faces, their shuttered businesses, the threadbare barracks that would become their homes for months or years.

Instead of allowing Lange to publish her photos, the government seized them.
posted by languagehat at 2:27 PM on February 19, 2017 [9 favorites]

The Smithsonian National Museum of American History just opened the exhibit Righting a Wrong: Japanese Americans and World War II. See also the related Japanese American Incarceration Era Collection online.
posted by gudrun at 2:43 PM on February 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

ESRI (maker of mapping software) has done some really good work on the geography of Japanese-American removal and the camps.
posted by epersonae at 2:59 PM on February 19, 2017 [5 favorites]

So, umm, where are they (the photos, I mean)?
posted by adam hominem at 3:40 PM on February 19, 2017

In the first link of the post.
posted by rtha at 4:00 PM on February 19, 2017

How timely. The generation born in the camps is still alive. We seem to have learned nothing.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:53 PM on February 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Adam hominem...I had to turn off every bit of ad/script blocking before the New Yorker site would serve up the photos. Pretty sucky, really.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:56 PM on February 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh hey, that's my Sunday Reading list (I'm kitabet on the twitters)--thanks for turning it into a post! Had I seen them in time, I'd have also included the ESRI post epersonae links above, which is excellent, as well as this haunting Paris Review piece on sculptor Isamu Noguchi's decision to deliberately intern himself (he lived in NYC, outside the exclusion zone) and this fascinating series of posts on comics in the camps (via Saladin Ahmed on twitter).

And rhizome, the timing was not coincidental at all; I put the links together specifically for the anniversary of EO9066. I spent my childhood around people who spent their childhoods in Manzanar and Minidoka (next-door neighbors, my beloved elementary school PE teacher, my grandmother's friend and sometime-employer, and more) and I wish everyone in this country also grew up hearing those stories. The archives at Densho and BIJAC are also good places to start; here's Mrs. Matsudaira (my PE teacher) talking about the day her family was sent to Manzanar. She was six.
posted by karayel at 6:31 PM on February 19, 2017 [8 favorites]

The Japanese-American National Museum also has an exhibition: Instructions to All Persons: Reflections on Executive Order 9066.
posted by mogget at 7:00 PM on February 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

There was a Remembrance Day event in Denver today. It focused on the large post-camp settlement of Japanese-Americans in Denver, who came here because 1) they were not welcomed on the West Coast and 2) then-Colorado Ralph Carr, who sacrificed his political career to do so, explicitly welcomed them here.
posted by kozad at 7:24 PM on February 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Interesting subject with some interesting anomalies.

In 1941 Hawaii, about 40% of the population had Japanese ancestry or citizenship, about 160,000 souls. Of that number, under one percent, some 1,400 civilians, were apprehended (add another 1,000 family members who chose to accompany them, which is kind of remarkable in its own right).

The Honouliuli camp (pdf) held a few hundred Japanese, as well as Koreans, German and Italian Americans, and POWs. Hawaii was under martial law, but the vast majority were left alone, or even employed in defense work, or even entering the 442nd. Some see this as proof that the west coast order was racially based.

The USGovt activity viz Axis types or quasi-Axis types in Central and South America also makes for interesting reading.

J. Edgar Hoover, of all people was against the internment - the G Men could winkle out the spies on their own, thank you very much. He had, on the other hand, not been privy to the MAGIC decrypts and associated reports, which some suggest pushed FDR towards his executive orders.

What of mainland German/Italian/Japanese? There were some gatherings, but in general there were too many to keep track of (cf Japanese on Hawaii), and some officials thought they were less of direct risk. there were, nevertheless, arrests made, including the odd German Jewish refugee (pdf).

No matter, because J. Edgar was on the case!

(On preview - Just glanced at Bertrand Roehner on army civilian relations in Hawaii at that time, which looks to make for some more interesting reading. As I say, it's an interesting subject with many facets. Then there were the other Allied camps about the world....)
posted by IndigoJones at 11:38 AM on February 20, 2017

And rhizome, the timing was not coincidental at all

I figured that was possible, I just thought it should be mentioned.
posted by rhizome at 11:51 AM on February 20, 2017

Amazing photos. Thanks for posting this! I don't have any photos of my grandparents during the internment, and it does feel like a blind spot in the family history.

Related to the PRI link in the post, I wrote previously about the Korematsu Center's amicus brief in the 9th District case (State of Washington v. Trump), and today Heidi Groover at The Stranger wrote about another amicus brief, in the New York v. Trump case: Children of Japanese Americans Who Defied Internment Ask Court to Reject Trump's Travel Ban

Earlier this week, the New York Times also published an editorial by Karen Korematsu: When Lies Overruled Rights
posted by mbrubeck at 5:36 PM on February 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

It's all fun and games until you get to the picture of a three year old with barbed wire and start crying in McDonald's.
posted by bq at 9:43 PM on February 20, 2017

You can see the guard towers in these, which I have not seen before in published pictures.
posted by ethansr at 10:20 PM on February 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

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