75th Anniversary: Executive Order 9066

japanese-amer-childYou all know photographer Dorothea Lange. If not Dorothea herself, you’ll recognize her famous candid photos taken during the 1930s highlighting the struggles of Americans suffering during the Great Depression. Her iconic Migrant Mother and the series of photos around that image depict the desperation many felt during the period.

Later in 1942, she was hired by the US government to capture images of the relocation of Japanese-Americans affected by President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066. Thousands of American citizens were being stripped of their civil liberties, their businesses, and their homes before being placed in internment camps scattered around the country.

Lange was originally opposed to the idea but accepted the task because she thought “a true record of the evacuation would be valuable in the future.” But after reviewing her photographs and their portrayal of the Japanese American experience, the military became concerned how the images of the internment program would be received by the public.

So government leaders seized the photos for the duration of World War II and deposited them in the National Archives, making them unavailable for viewing. Not until 2006 were the censored pictures finally released.

executive_order_9066This week is the 75th anniversary of Roosevelt’s February 1942 decision to sign an executive order creating restricted areas and sending over 120,000 people to internment camps.

Lange’s photographs and other documents from the period provide a powerful tool for training students to think historically and to connect past events with contemporary issues. Ansel Adams and other photographers also documented the internment process. Many of the photos taken by Lange and Adams are now available online as well as articles and resources that can be used to create engaging and powerful learning activities.

dorothea-lange-internment-camps-11Start with several online resources highlighting Lange’s images and oral histories:

Browse a variety of resources telling the story:map_of_world_war_ii_japanese_american_internment_camps

Find teaching tools and lesson plans:

About Glenn Wiebe

I work as a social studies specialist at ESSDACK, an educational service center in Hutchinson, Kansas. Before coming to ESSDACK, I taught middle school US History and higher ed social science classes.

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