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Penn Libraries News

Investigating and Remembering Japanese-American Internment

Photo of people working at tables in a classroom.

On Wednesday, August 12, the University Task Force on Support to Asian and Asian-American Students and Scholars — in collaboration with several University partners — is screening and sponsoring a panel discussion of the documentary 9066 to 9/11: The Past, Present and Future of Anti-Asian Bias in America.

9066 to 9/11 traces the history of discrimination against people of Asian descent in the United States, from World War II internment to the rise of Islamophobia following 9/11. 

This guide provides Libraries resources which contextualize the documentary, particularly in regards to Japanese-American Internment.

Japanese-American Internment

The internment of Japanese Americans during World War II marks one of the most blatant and public demonstrations of anti-Asian sentiment in U.S. History. 

The Libraries’ collection of materials documenting this violation of civil liberties is strong, in no small part due to the scholarly influence of Eiichiro Azuma, Alan Charles Kors Term Associate Professor of History and Asian American Studies. Azuma is a nationally renowned expert on Japanese-American internment and has for many years taught a course on the subject. 

The Libraries recently purchased several topical databases through the History Vault Platform. Among other collections, the Penn community now has access to Japanese American Incarceration: Records of the War Relocation Authority, 1942-1946​. This database includes federal policy governing the internment camps, as well War Relocation Authority materials documenting daily life therein. The War Relocation Authority was the government agency tased with rounding up Japanese Americans, placing them in camps, and determining their loyalty to the United States.

This database also provides access to camp newspapers published by Japanese-American internees. The newspapers, though heavily censored, provide a glimpse into daily life as experienced by the internees from their own point of view.

Related collections in History Vault include Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, several collections covering government planning and operations during WWII, and reports of governmental civil rights commissions.

Japanese-American Memory

The trauma of internment was seared into the memory of a generation of Japanese Americans, and this memory has been experienced in myriad ways by their children and grandchildren.  These memories are explored in various documentaries and feature films about internment, some of which are available to stream. Those available only in physical format can be picked up at the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center or mailed to active Penn faculty, students, and staff via the Libraries’ recently-launched borrowing services.

The memories of internment — especially the memories “inherited” by later generations, —are also discussed in ethnic newspapers written by and for Asian-Americans. An extraordinary collection of such newspapers is available in the Ethnic NewsWatch database.

Because of the importance and continuing relevance of Japanese-American internment, special collections around the United States have been digitized and made available to the public. These projects, along other materials related to Japanese-American internment from the Penn Libraries, are listed on our Japanese-American Internment library guide.

We hope that you can join us next Wednesday, August 12, 7 p.m. EST, for a screening and panel discussion of 9066 to 9/11.



August 7, 2020