"Suffering Under a Great Injustice": Ansel Adams's Photographs of Japanese-American Internment at Manzanar
"Ansel Adams's Photographs of Japanese-American Internment at Manzanar, contains photographs taken by noted photographer Ansel Adams documenting life at the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California. In addition to documenting life within the internment camps, this collection also allows viewers to study Adams' darkroom techniques and how they shaped the pictures that he created. A special addition to this collection is the text of the book "Born Free and Equal" which provides a collection of the Manzanar images as well as text describing the experience of the Japanese Americans held there.
These online exhibits provide context and additional information about this collection.
These historical era(s) are best represented in the collection although they may not be all-encompassing.
- The Great Depression and World War II, 1929-1945
Related Collections and Exhibits
- American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940
- Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-and-White Negatives
- Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Color Photographs
- Women Come to the Front: Journalists, Photographers, and Broadcasters during WWII
Recommended additional sources of information.
Specific guidance for searching this collection
For help with general search strategies, see Finding Items in American Memory.
Ansel Adams's Manzanar photographs reflect the early Japanese-American experience and the evacuation of this population to internment camps during World War II. The collection provides an in-depth look at daily life at the camp at Manzanar. It also touches upon the participation of Japanese Americans in the war and their relocation to the interior United States as the war progressed.
The Early Japanese-American Experience
In the late 1860s, a new ruling dynasty in Japan initiated an era of industrialization. By the 1890s, people living in agricultural areas were finding ever fewer economic opportunities, especially rural middle-class families, sought new opportunities abroad. Eighty percent of the Japanese who emigrated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries went to the United States.
When Japanese immigrants arrived in the U.S., they entered a culture that already included a strong anti-Asian sentiment. Chinese immigrants who had arrived a few decades earlier had aroused animosity by providing a cheap source of labor that threatened other people's jobs. This economic competition was strongest in the western states where Chinese immigrants vied for jobs in agriculture. It was also in this region that racism against the Chinese was strongest.
Like the Chinese, the majority of Japanese immigrants also settled in the West to find agricultural work. As the Japanese-American population grew, many labor unions, politicians, and white supremacists in the region lobbied against them. As a result, legislation was passed to limit Japanese immigration to the United States. Other laws limited the amount of land that Japanese Americans could buy. Separate schools were created for children of Japanese as well as Indian, Chinese, and Mongolian parents. And in 1922, the U.S. Supreme Court denied people born in Japan the opportunity to become U.S. citizens.
Though the text of Adams’s book about Manzanar, Born Free and Equal, is not searchable, it can be browsed for information about Japanese immigration and the early Japanese-American experience. For example, Adams includes statistics about the Japanese-American population, and he discusses the problem of economic competition. Adams argues that discrimination against Japanese Americans forced them to underbid their competitors and he calls for the establishment of a minimum wage.
- Why do you think Adams thought that the readers of Born Free and Equal should know these facts about the Japanese-American population?
- Why did Chinese and Japanese Americans provide cheaper labor than their competitors?
- Why would this source of cheap labor upset some people?
- What factors contributed to the development of racism against people of Chinese and Japanese descent?
- How were other immigrant groups such as the Germans and Irish received by U.S. citizens?
- How effective do you think establishing a minimum wage would be in solving the problem of racial strife created by economic competition? Why?
The early Japanese-American experience is also reflected in interviews that Adams conducted with Manzanar residents, found throughout Born Free and Equal. Adams introduces his readers to a first-generation Japanese American, or Issei, named Mr. Francis Yonemitsu :
Mr. Francis Yonemitsu…was born in Japan. He is not and cannot be a citizen. But he is American in spirit, and he is a realist. In regard to his pre-war life in America he said he would have liked to be truly assimilated, but that the Caucasians themselves prevented it. He was automatically barred from many public places. As to the future he says, '‘At present I am undecided. I leave my children's plans up to them. They are citizens; my problem is far more difficult.' Mr. Yonemitsu hopes that in the post-war world 'our federal government will take steps to smooth out once and for all the minority problems of the Japanese, Negroes, etc…'
Adams also introduces his reader to a second-generation Japanese American, or Nisei, named Mr. Roy Takeno. Search on Roy Takeno for several photographs of this Manzanar resident who became the editor of the largest Japanese language newspaper in the country after his internment. According to Adams, Takeno expresses the "general attitude" of "all the Nisei" in an editorial that he wrote for the Manzanar Free Press and in his conversation:
Of his life prior to the war he says he was "comfortable, but felt confined in his Japanese community." Trained in American schools, and believing in American ways, he feels, along with thousands of his fellow Nisei, the unsatisfactory elements of enforced racial segregation. America has not assimilated all who have assimilated America.
- What do the interviews with Yonemitsu and Takeno as well as Takeno's editorial reveal about the Japanese-American experience in the early-twentieth century?
- What do you think was the Japanese Americans' "stake in America" at this time and how did it change with their evacuation to interment camps?
- What were Mr. Yonemitsu's and Mr. Takeno's goals and attitudes as Japanese Americans in the United States?
- What other goals and attitudes might you expect from immigrants and their descendants?
- What impression do you get of Mr. Takeno from the series of photographs that Adams made of him?
- To what extent does Adams interpret the early Japanese-American experience in this material? Do you think that his interpretation is legitimate?
Browse Born Free and Equal for other passages and images pertaining to the early Japanese-American experience, such as a photograph and a quotation of President Franklin D. Roosevelt stating that " 'Americanism is a matter of the mind and heart; Americanism is not, and never was, a matter of race or ancestry.' "
- What are the implications of the definition (found in the forward) of "Americanism" upon immigrants and their descendants?
- How does the rest of the book relate to this quotation?
- What does the forward imply about the role of immigrants in the United States? How does the book as a whole represent the role of immigrants?
- What does the photograph's caption imply about the Japanese-American experience?
- What does it imply about the immigrant experience?
For more on the early Japanese-American experience see The Teachers Page feature presentation, Immigration — The Changing Face of America.
Executive Order 9066: Evacuation and Segregation
On December 7, 1941, Japanese planes launched two attacks on Pearl Harbor, leaving 2,403 people dead and destroying U.S. planes and battleships. The following day, President Roosevelt asked Congress for a declaration of war against Japan. Japanese Americans felt the repercussions over the following weeks. They were fired from government jobs, and had their cameras and short-wave radios confiscated. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Owen J. Roberts accused Japanese Americans in Hawaii of helping the Japanese to attack Pearl Harbor. And newspapers reported widely of suspected Japanese-American sabotage.
According to Adams, the Office of War Information reported in June 1943 that Nazi agents and not Japanese Americans had helped Japan bomb Pearl Harbor. "But this was too late,"Adams explains, "for wild stories were already broadcast; the public tension rose alarmingly, and the Military proceeded to recommend and enforce a series of evacuation orders."
On February 19, two and a half months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 authorizing:
…the Secretary of War, and the Military Commanders whom he may from time to time designate, whenever he or any designated Commander deems such actions necessary or desirable, to prescribe military areas in such places and of such extent as he or the appropriate Military Commanders may determine, from which any or all persons may be excluded, and with such respect to which, the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Sectary of War or the appropriate Military Commander may impose in his discretion…
Within months, approximately 117,000 people of Japanese ancestry were removed from regions of the West Coast to internment camps such as the one at Manzanar. Two-thirds were citizens of the United States, children of parents who had been prohibited from becoming citizens because they had been born in Japan.
- Under what authority did President Roosevelt issue Executive Order 9066?
- What powers did the executive order give the military over civilians?
- What was the impact of Executive Order 9066?
Adams assessed the decision to evacuate Japanese Americans through Executive Order 9066, noting that:
No charges had been filed against these people nor had any hearing been held. Evacuation was on a Racial, or, perhaps more accurately, on ancestral grounds. It was the 'largest single forced migration in American History…'
The responsibility of the Military was tremendous; the spectacular victories of Japan, the crippling of our fleet at Pearl Harbor, the possibility of invasion of our west coast—all were facts of tragic import, and at the time, were considered more than ample justification of the mass exodus. In addition, there was the threat of public retaliation against the Japanese-American population. We may feel that racial antagonisms fanned the flame of decision, that political pressures were of no little consequence in supporting the military action. In the light of retrospection and true evaluation the evacuation may have been unnecessary, but the fact remains that we, as a nation, were in the most potentially precarious moment of our history—stunned, seriously hurt, unorganized for actual war…
- How does Adams describe the political and cultural climate after the attack on Pearl Harbor? According to Adams, what factors contributed to this climate?
- According to Adams, what were some of the justifications for Executive Order 9066 and the evacuation of Japanese Americans from the military zones?
- Do you find these justifications to be legitimate?
- Do you agree with Adams that relocation benefited Japanese Americans by removing them from possible persecution?
- How would you describe Adams's attitude towards Executive Order 9066?
- Is this attitude reflected in Adams's photographs? How might his feelings about the evacuation have affected the way he photographed Manzanar and its residents?
- Why might Adams have chosen to insert these photographs into his discussion of evacuation? Do these images contribute to the reader's understanding of the evacuation of Japanese Americans? If so, how?
The tragedy of segregation appears in the status of completely loyal persons having to choose between patriotic ideals and family obligations. It should be noted that 28% of the evacuees who went from Manzanar to Tule Lake were children under 18 years of age. The request for repatriation may mean allegiance to Japan, defeat, nostalgia, or simply the desire for family unity.
- Who was sent to the segregation center at Tule Lake and why?
- Why did some people refuse to foreswear allegiance to the emperor of Japan?
- Why do you think that such a large percentage of segregated evacuees were under the age of 18?
- Do you think that segregation was justified and necessary? Why or why not?
Adams clarifies, "I have not said that the evacuation was JUST, but that it was JUSTIFIED," adding, "There were great personal tragedies, financial losses, a deep disillusionment—all great and moving realities in comparison with the relatively simple physical discomforts." Passages and photographs in Born Free and Equal bring home the hardships of the forced removal of Japanese Americans from their homes.
Mr. Roy Takeno’s 1944 New Year’s Day editorial takes account of the tragedies of evacuation while images of home interiors at Manzanar testify to the few possessions that most Japanese Americans were able to retain in the process of evacuation. Finally, Adams alludes to some of the worst treatment that certain individuals endured because of Executive Order 9066:
From both their own experiences, and from knowledge of the experiences of families and friends, many of the Nisei have suffered spiritual and psychological wounds that may never entirely heal. For example, the situation of the group at Terminal Island near Los Angeles: On December 7th, 1942, a large group of fishermen was seized for detention and transported to isolated camps; their wives and children were ordered from their homes without charge or process of law. Unfamiliar with the outside world they wandered for weeks as bewildered refugees in the "Little Tokyo" of Los Angeles, until the Military swept these women and children into Manzanar and other centers. Many of the alien men who were arrested on suspicion were detained for a year or more for no other charge than owning a fishing boat! All this burned deep scars into the hearts of those who came to Manzanar.
- What were the tragedies of evacuation? What aspects of evacuation do you think would be hardest to endure?
- How does Born Free and Equal portray the long-term impact of evacuation upon the Japanese-American population?
- Do you think that evacuation was justified?
- What else could have been done to respond to public fears and to ensure the nation's security?
- To what extent do you think the decision to issue Executive Order 9066 was influenced by U.S. policy and sentiment towards Japanese Americans in the decades before the war?
Life at Manzanar
The first Japanese Americans to be evacuated from the military zones were sent from Los Angeles to the Manzanar relocation center in northeastern California. Over the next 18 months, about 120,000 more Japanese Americans were evacuated to ten relocation centers in Califonia, Arizona, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and Arkansas.
The entire collection provides a window into life at Manzanar, and by extension provides a look at the experience of most Japanese-American evacuees. Adams's photographs and text depict the place, people, and activities of Manzanar, and provide insight into the thoughts and feelings of its residents. Browse the collection's Subject Index and the pages of Born Free and Equal for a wealth of information.
The blocks are widely spaced, with frequent large firebreak areas in which victory gardens, pleasure parks, playing fields, and concert areas, have been developed. In addition there are schools, warehouses, shops, canteens, offices, meeting halls, libraries, churches, a museum, a large and completely equipped hospital, and a recently completed auditorium. An area is devoted to the general administrative offices and the residences of the Caucasian personnel. To the north and south of the Center are extensive farm areas, and the chicken, hog, and cattle enterprises.
- How would you characterize the physical appearance of Manzanar?
- What was the layout of the town like? What were the buildings and homes like?
- Do you agree with Adams that the landscape surrounding Manzanar symbolizes "the immensity and opportunity of America" ?
- How else might the residents of Manzanar have felt about this landscape of mountains and desert?
- The caption of one photograph reads, "The spirit of Manzanar is fleeting and impermanent." Does Manzanar strike you as a temporary or permanent settlement?
- What aspects of it were temporary and what aspects were permanent?
Adams depicts the people of Manzanar in individual and group portraits found by searching on family or portrait. He also devotes a section of Born Free and Equal to "The People". Browse the book for a series of portraits with brief descriptions of their subjects, such as Nurse Aiko Hamaguchi:
Born in Long Beach, California, and subsequently living in Los Angeles and Redondo Beach, she completed two years at Los Angeles City College majoring in pre-nursing, followed by nurse-training at the Los Angeles General Hospital. Her ambition is to become a proficient public health nurse. She is interested chiefly in human beings; she also enjoys bridge, tennis, horseback riding and reading. She is realistic and says in regard to her pre-war life, "Only after evacuation have I come to realize the false sense of security I enjoyed prior to the war."
- What kinds of people did Adams photograph? What are their ages, backgrounds, and occupations?
- Do the clothing and hair styles of Manzanar residents appear to be more Japanese or American?
- What kind of information does Adams share about his subjects in Born Free and Equal? What kind of "portrait" does Adams create with this information and why do you think he does this?
- Can Adams's portraits be used to understand how the people of Manzanar felt about being there? Why or why not?
- Why do you think that Adams decided to take so many portraits at Manzanar?
Searching on a variety of terms or browsing the Subject Index provides countless examples of the activities of daily life at Manzanar. Search on game, choir, museum, and park for images of recreation at Manzanar. Search on church, school, and class for images reflecting religion and education. Search on electrician, truck driver, dressmaker, nurse, farmer, agriculture, and store for images of Manzanar residents at work. Browse Adams's 57 page section on "The People" for more photographs and descriptions of recreation, religion, education, and work at Manzanar.
- To what extent was Manzanar a fully developed town?
- In what ways was Manzanar different from other towns?
- In what ways does the unique position of the Japanese-American evacuees seem to have affected the way they developed their town and their lifestyles?
- What does the development of Manzanar suggest about its residents and their attitudes about their situation?
Adams discusses the quality of life for the residents of Manzanar. He quotes Carey McWilliams, author of "What About Our Japanese-Americans?" who observed that "living in a center is, at best, an extremely irritating experience. Overcrowding is universal; there is no privacy whatever, and people wait in line to eat, to wash, to be interviewed…most of the evacuees… worry incessantly about their future." Adams, on the other hand, takes an admittedly more positive view. For example, after explaining how many newlyweds are required to share a room with their parents, he remarks that "Communal life undoubtedly has bolstered morale."
- What do you think it was like to live at Manzanar?
- How might your evacuation from your home have affected your attitudes?
- How would the temporary nature of the camp at Manzanar and the uncertainty of your future have affected the way you felt and lived?
- How would you characterize the way Japanese-American evacuees dealt with being incarcerated? How else could they have responded to this treatment?
- Why do you think they responded the way they did?
- What is the difference between McWilliams's assessment of life at Manzanar and Adams's view of it? Which viewpoint is most realistic? Which is most productive?
- How does their language express their viewpoints? What words have they chosen to depict Manzanar in the ways that they see it?
Japanese-American Participation in World War II
Adams's portrait and description of Nobutaro Harry Sumida show that Japanese Americans demonstrated loyalty to the United States through military service as early as the Spanish-American War. Born in New York in 1872, Sumida, the oldest resident at Manzanar, served as Seaman 1st Class on the U.S.S. Indiana during this war. A wound received during the battle of Santiago Bay left him permanently disabled. Search on Sumida for a series of photographs of this veteran at the Manzanar hospital.
The collection's other military portraits testify to the Japanese-American contribution to World War II. In January,1943, a Japanese-American combat team was formed. It included the 100th Infantry and the 442nd Combat Unit, which was the most decorated unit for its size and length of service in United States military history.
Some of the people who served on the combat team had families living at Manzanar. Robert Yonemitsu's family displayed the soldier's portrait and letters next to a religious icon in their home in Manzanar. When Pfc. Frank Nobuo Arikawa was killed in action on the Italian front, he was survived by his two brothers, also in the military, and his mother who lived at Manzanar, according to the Manzanar Free Press.
Adams's discussion of the Japanese-American contribution to the war effort includes statements by Manzanar residents about the significance of that contribution. He quotes Red Cross Nurse Catherine Natsuko Yamaguchi, speaking about the Japanese-American combat team:
They will help more than anyone else in fostering goodwill and making others feel that the Japanese-Americans are Americans also. The sons and daughters of those fighting in the army will be able to hold their heads up and say proudly, 'My father also helped in the war for democracy!'
Read through the rest of this section on the Japanese-American combat team for more photographs and information about this and other contributions to the war effort.
- Why do you think a separate combat unit was created just for Japanese Americans?
- Why was the Japanese-American contribution to World War II particularly important to the Japanese-American population at that time?
- What reasons would Japanese Americans have had for wanting to serve in the military during World War II?
- What sorts of military assignments would you have expected Japanese Americans to have gotten?
- In Hawaii, the Japanese-American population was so great that evacuating them to internment camps would have ruined the economy. Thousands volunteered for the Military Intelligence Service or the Japanese-American 100th Battalion of the Army. Why do you think so many people in Hawaii volunteered?
About a month after President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, an agency called the War Relocation Authority (WRA) was created to manage the evacuation of Japanese Americans to internment camps. In September 1943 the WRA began efforts to depopulate the internment camps by relocating residents with good records to the interior United States. Adams quotes the President’s announcement of the new policy:
'With the segregation of the disloyal evacuees in a separate center, the War Relocation Authority proposes now to redouble its efforts to accomplish the relocation into normal homes and jobs in communities throughout the United States, but outside the evacuated area, of those Americans of Japanese ancestry whose loyalty to this country has remained unshaken through the hardships of the evacuation which military necessity made unavoidable.'
The WRA began by granting students, linguists, and agricultural workers temporary leave from internment camps. They also placed field agents in certain cities to locate job opportunities for Japanese-American evacuees. When these field agents discovered an opportunity for employment in a community that seemed friendly towards Japanese Americans, they forwarded information to the internment camps. Residents who followed up on these leads and negotiated a job with an employer were granted permanent leave to relocate if their behavior records were approved.
Adams photographed job boards at Manzanar. He also photographed Manzanar residents preparing to leave for relocation and makes reference throughout Born Free and Equal to relocated residents such as Yuichi and Fumiko Hirata.
- What does the caption of the photograph of the departing residents suggest about relocation?
- What do you think would have been the pros and cons of relocating from an internment camp? How do you think you would have felt about relocating if you were an evacuee?
- How do you think the relocation of evacuees might have contributed to the culture of Manzanar?
Adams reports on the progress of relocation in a section called "The Problem."
Certain areas of the Midwest have been especially tolerant toward the relocating people. Early in 1944 Illinois had absorbed more than 4,000. There has been practically no opposition in that state. However, in more westerly states, opposition has been intense; petitions, press campaigns, and legislation, mostly unconstitutional, have combined to create a truly regrettable stain on the record of our democracy.
Read the rest of this section in which Adams explores the question of "What is going to happen to these people when the war is over and the stress and turmoil of relocation is a thing of the past?"
- What does Adams mean when he writes that "The spirit of Jim Crow walks in almost every section of our land?"
- What reasons does Adams give for intolerance of Japanese Americans in certain areas of the U.S.?
- Why does Adams think that "the scattering of the loyal Japanese-Americans throughout the country is far better for them than re-concentration into racial districts and groups"? Do you agree with him?
- Why doesn’t Adams put much hope in political means of protecting Japanese Americans from injustice?
- What does Adams suggest should be done in order to insure justice and equality for Japanese Americans?
- Do you think that the relocation process adequately provided for the 117,000 people that had been forced to evacuate their homes?
A study of Ansel Adams's Manzanar photographs can be enhanced by critical thinking projects rooted in the collection. Practice chronological thinking by tracing U.S.-Japanese relations, or use analysis and interpretation to examine Born Free and Equal. Explore the controversial nature of the evacuation of Japanese Americans through issue-analysis and research, and demonstrate your understanding of this complex subject in a creative writing project.
Chronological Thinking: Timeline of U.S.-Japanese Relations
Understanding U.S.-Japanese relations in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries is essential to understanding and evaluating the government's decision to evacuate Japanese Americans from the Pacific Coast during World War II. Use basic history textbooks to trace the development of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Japan. Begin your timeline with the Gentlemen's Agreement of 1907-8 and end it with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
- What was the Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1907-8 intended to do? What was its actual impact?
- On what grounds did the U.S. Supreme Court decide in its 1922 cases, Ozawa v. United States and Yamashita v. Hinkle, that Issei, or people born in Japan, were not eligible for naturalization in the U.S.?
- How did the Immigration Act of 1924 affect U.S.-Japanese relations?
- To what extent did Japanese immigration affect U.S.-Japanese relations? What other factors affected U.S.-Japanese relations?
- What was the relationship between popular opinion in the U.S. and the country's official policy with Japan?
Describe one or more aspects of the evacuation of Japanese Americans by writing a diary from the perspective of one of the Manzanar residents represented in the collection. Browse Born Free and Equal or search on portrait to select an image of a Manzanar resident. Before you write, think about how your perspective, as this individual, would have been different from other people's perspectives. Make a list of things that describe your character, such as your age, where you lived before the evacuation, what your job was or what grade you were in, your hobbies, and your personal qualities.
The diary could describe one or more of the following: the bombing of Pearl Harbor and its consequences, the evacuation of Japanese Americans to Manzanar, daily life at Manzanar, and the process of relocation. For an example of history portrayed through first-person accounts, read The Diary of Ann Frank. Use the following questions to help write your diary:
- How and when did you find out about the bombing of Pearl Harbor? How did you, your family, and your community react?
- What were the consequences of this attack? How did they affect you, your family, and community?
- When did you hear that you might be evacuated to an internment camp? How did this news make you feel? What kinds of questions did you have about it?
- What did you, and your family, do to prepare to move to this camp?
- When were you transported to Manzanar? What was that day like?
- What did you think of Manzanar when you first arrived there? What was your home like? What was the town like?
- How long did you live at Manzanar? What did you and your family members do while you were there? What was on your mind while you were living there?
- When did you find out that you might relocate? How did this make you feel?
- When did you leave Manzanar? How did you feel on the day of your departure? What was that day like?
- Where did you relocate? What did you do there? What was your new home and community like?
Historical Analysis and Interpretation
Readers of Born Free and Equal can gain insight into the meaning of the book by analyzing some of the choices Adams made in presenting his text and photographs. For example, consider the first few pages of Born Free and Equal. Adams opens the book with a full-spread image overlaid with the title.
- Why do you think that Adams chose to title his book "Born Free and Equal"?
- What impression do you get of the man in the photograph?
- Why might Adams have selected this image for the title page and beginning of his book?How does the image enhance the title? How do they introduce the subject of the book?
After the title page, Adams includes some acknowledgements and then presents Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment as well as a short excerpt from a letter that Abraham Lincoln sent to a colleague, Joshua Speed, in 1855:
"As a nation we began by declaring that 'all men are created equal.' We now practically read it 'all men are created equal, except Negroes.' When the know-Nothings get control it will read 'all men are created equal, except Negroes and Foreigners and Catholics.' When it comes to this, I shall prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty…where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base allow of hypocrisy."
Adams closes his foreword with the following statement:
I trust the content and message of this book will suggest that the broad concepts of American citizenship, and of liberal, democratic life the world over, must be protected in the prosecution of the war, and sustained in the building of the peace to come.
- Why does Adams include these excerpts of the Fourteenth Amendment and Lincoln's letter in the beginning of his book?
- How do they influence the reader's expectations and reading of the book?
- What do they suggest about the meaning of the book?
- Why do you think Adams chose to quote Lincoln instead of a contemporary who could speak specifically about Japanese Americans?
- What position does Adams appear to be taking at the end of the foreword?
- Is the rest of the book consistent with this position?
- What purpose do you think Adams wanted his foreword to serve and why?
Historical Issue-Analysis and Decision-Making
In 1988, Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act, which recognized the "grave injustice" perpetrated on persons of Japanese ancestry in their evacuation from the military zones of the West Coast during World War II. The Act declared that the forced evacuation and relocation was "motivated largely by racial prejudice, wartime hysteria, and a failure of political leadership" and authorized payments of $20,000 to surviving Japanese Americans who had been sent to relocation camps.
Evaluate President Roosevelt's decision to evacuate people of Japanese ancestry during World War II through Executive Order 9066 and the long-term consequences of this decision.
- What alternative course of action could President Roosevelt have taken?
- To what extent was Executive Order 9066 a violation of the principles of American democracy?
- What factors led to Congress's 1988 apology?
- Why did it take the government over 40 years to recognize the injustice?
- How do you think Adams would have felt about the 1988 apology?
Search congress.gov for the Wartime Parity and Justice Act of 2001, introduced in the House of Representatives as HR 619 during the first session of the 107th Congress. A similar bill was introduced in the Senate as Senate Bill 1237. Explain how this new act expands on the prior Civil Liberties Act of 1988.
PRISONER EXCHANGES- An individual shall not be precluded from being an eligible individual under subsection (a) if that individual was sent by the United States to Japan or territories occupied by Japan at any time during the period beginning on December 7, 1941, and ending on September 2, 1945, in exchange for prisoners held by Japan.
Wartime Parity and Justice Act of 2001
- What does the Wartime Parity and Justice Act of 2001 suggest about other decisions the government made regarding people of Japanese ancestry during World War II and the consequences of these decisions?
- Why do you think that so little has been written about the repatriation of Japanese aliens and Japanese-American citizens during the war?
Historical Research Capabilities
While most Japanese Americans complied with the evacuation process, as depicted in this collection, a few did not. For example, on March 24, 1942 General De Witt, of the Western Defense Command issued a public proclamation requiring "all alien Japanese, all alien Germans, all alien Italians, and all persons of Japanese ancestry" living within Military Area No. 1 to be "within their place of residence between the hours of 8:00 P.M. and 6:00 A.M." But one Japanese American, Gordon Hirabayashi failed to observe the curfew.
On May 10, De Witt ordered all people of Japanese ancestry to report to a designated assembly point for their evacuation form the military zone. But again, Hirabayashi failed to report to the assembly point and was arrested. Born in Seattle in 1918, Hirabayashi was a United States citizen and believed that obeying the proclamations would be waiving his rights of citizenship.
On May 10 and 11, 1943 the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case of Hirabayashi v. United States, examining whether the legislation compelling Hirabayashi to comply with De Witt's proclamations was constitutional and whether the proclamations unconstitutionally discriminated against citizens of Japanese ancestry. The Court decided unanimously against Hirabayashi. On December 18, 1944 the Court decided six to three against Fred Korematsu in a similar case. Research Hirabayashi v. United States and Korematsu v. United States and answer the following questions:
- On what grounds did the Court decide in favor of the United States in these two cases?
- What arguments did Justices Owen Roberts, Frank Murphy, and Robert Jackson present in their dissent in Korematsu?
- Why do you think that Gordon Hirabayashi and Fred Korematsu won reversal of their 1942 convictions in the 1980s?
- Why do you think that more Japanese Americans didn't take a stand against the government's actions as an infringement on their rights of citizenship?
- What does Roy Takeno's New Year's Day editorial in Born Free and Equal suggest about the attitude that most Japanese Americans took towards the government's actions? Why do you think that most of them took this attitude?
Arts & Humanities
Ansel Adams's Manzanar photographs present a unique opportunity to examine Adams's technique and to learn about photography and photographic documentaries. It can also provide the basis for a research project investigating racial representations in newspapers during World War II. Finally, certain items can be used to study the use of persuasion and detail in writing.
Photography: Composition and Value
This collection provides the unique opportunity to compare Adams's final photographs to his original negatives. Examining the differences between the final photographs and negatives provides insight into Adams’s technique—his choices about the composition and value of his photographs.
When a photographer clicks the shutter on his camera to take a picture, it doesn't actually create the picture that he will put in an album or a frame. It creates a negative, which is a piece of film with an image on it that is used to create the final photograph. The film is usually a strip of plastic or a piece of glass, and the photographer projects light through it onto a piece of light-sensitive paper to create the final photograph.
The photographer uses a device called an enlarger to project the light through the negative and onto the paper. With the enlarger, he can crop the original image to include only part of it in his final photograph. For example, when Adams photographed a fashion designing class at Manzanar he captured more of the surrounding room in his negative than he included in his final photograph. He used the enlarger to crop out some of the background and tighten the image in around the people. The arrangement of the final image is called the photograph's composition.
The photographer can also use the enlarger to control how dark or light his photograph will be. For example, Adams's final photograph of Benji Iguchi in a storehouse filled with squash is much darker than the image of his original negative. The darkness and lightness of a photograph is called its value.
Browse the Subject Index and compare some of Adams's prints and negatives to see what choices he made about the composition and value of his photographs.
- Is the final photograph darker or lighter than the original negative?
- How did Adams's choice of value affect the information and feeling you get from his final photograph?
- Why do you think Adams might have chosen to darken or lighten his final photograph?
- Did Adams crop the original image to create the final photograph? If so, why might he have done this? How does the difference in composition change the way you react to the image?
- What is the importance of an image's composition and value? How do they affect the image's impact?
- Did Adams make similar or different decisions about composition and value in his photographs of different subjects, such as people and landscapes?
- How would you describe Adams's style and technique based on his use of composition and value?
When Adams was offered the opportunity to photograph the Manzanar War Relocation Center, he jumped at the chance to make a meaningful contribution to the war effort. The assignment also held a personal interest for him. One of his parents' long-time employees, Harry Oye, was a first-generation Japanese American in ill health when the U.S. entered World War II. Adams was angered when Mr. Oye was suddenly evacuated to a hospital far away in Missouri.
Adams photographed the Manzanar War Relocation Center, which was run by his friend and fellow Sierra Club member Ralph Merritt, in the fall of 1943. The following year, U.S. Camera published selected photographs and text by Adams in Born Free and Equal. The book was well received and made the bestseller list in the San Francisco Chronicle for March and April of 1945. Nevertheless, some felt that Adams's book hurt the war effort.
This book in no way attempts a sociological analysis of the people and their problem. It is addressed to the average American citizen, and is conceived on a human, emotional basis, accenting the realities of the individual and his environment rather than considering the loyal Japanese-Americans as an abstract, amorphous, minority group. This impersonal grouping, while essential to the factual study of racial and sociological problems, frequently submerges the individual, who is of greatest importance. Throughout this book I want the reader to feel he has been with me in Manzanar, has met some of the people, and has known the mood of the Center and its environment—thereby drawing his own conclusions—rather than impose upon him any doctrine or advocate any sociological action.
- What do you think Adams means when he writes in his foreword that the individual "is of greatest importance?"
- Do you think Adams is stating in his foreword that his documentation has no relevance to racial or sociological problems?
- Why do you think `Adams feels that it's important for the "average American citizen" to be introduced to the residents of Manzanar?
- Why was Adams interested in photographing Manzanar? What do you think he hoped to accomplish with his photographs? How successful do you think he was?
- Do you think Born Free and Equal advocates any kind of sociological action? If so, what?
- Why would some people have felt that the book hurt the war effort?
- Do you think Born Free and Equal had a sociological impact? What was its significance at the time? What is its significance now? What can we learn from it?
Adams implies that he took a relatively positive view of Manzanar. Perhaps for this reason, he agreed to not photograph guard towers, barbed wire, or the soldiers guarding the internees, in order to do the project. Other photographers who documented the evacuation of Japanese Americans, however, took a darker view of their subject, and their images and captions reflect it.
Hired by the War Relocation Agency, Dorothea Lange depicted social upheaval and bleak conditions in the evacuation and internment of Japanese Americans at Manzanar. Russell Lee captured the harsh realities of evacuation in images such as those portraying armed guards. Lee’s photographs of the evacuation can be found in the collection, Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-and-White Negatives. Information about and photographs by Dorothea Lange are also available in this collection, though her photographs of the evacuation are not.
- Do you think the absence of photographs such as Lee's, showing the presence of armed guards, detracts from the quality of Adams's documentation?
- Do you think that Adams's agreement to not photograph certain things at Manzanar or his relationship with Ralph Merritt compromised his ability to make an accurate documentation of Manzanar?
- If a photographer is only allowed to document certain aspects of a subject, is the project worth doing?
- What are the pros and cons of proceeding with such a project?
- What could be the ramifications of publishilng such a project?
Newspapers and Racial Representations During World War II
In the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, Congress recognized the evacuation of Japanese Americans during World War II as a "grave injustice…motivated largely by racial prejudice, wartime hysteria, and a failure of political leadership." Readers of Born Free and Equal can better appreciate the significance of the evacuation by examining evidence of this wartime hysteria and racial prejudice for themselves.
Newspapers played a large role in spreading hysteria and racial prejudice through stories that created suspicion against Japanese-Americans. Use online search engines or the resources of a local library or historical society to access newspapers published during World War II. Examine how U.S. newspapers represented Japanese and Japanese Americans in this era.
- What kinds of information did newspapers report about Japanese Americans after the attack on Pearl Harbor?
- How did newspapers represent the Japanese in its coverage of the war?
- How were Japanese and Japanese Americans represented in newspaper photographs and drawings?
- How did newspapers represent other opponents of World War II such as the Germans and Italians?
- How did they represent other minority groups such as Chinese Americans or African Americans?
- What does your research into contemporary newspaper depictions of Japanese Americans contribute to your appreciation of Adams's photographs?
- What does your research contribute to your appreciation of the evacuation of Japanese Americans?
Persuasive Writing: Roy Takeno's 1944 New Years's Day Editorial
Adams devotes two pages of Born Free and Equal to quoting an entire editorial from the Manzanar Free Press. Written by Roy Takeno for the 1944 New Year's Day edition, it provides an opportunity to examine an example of persuasive writing and to analyze the writer's techniques. He begins:
Greetings to you for a Victorious New Year, people of America; from your kindred 50,000 citizens inside barbed wire fences. We send you greetings, we who have been lodged by circumstances of war inside these Relocation Centers in the deserts of the West.
- Why do you think that Takeno chose to write his editorial for New Year's Day?
- Why do you think that he titled it "A Victorious New Year to You—America"? Does this title express the message of his editorial?
- What are the main points that Takeno makes in his editorial?
- How does Takeno identify himself and the people for whom he is speaking?
- How does he identify his audience?
- How would you describe the tone with which Takeno addresses his audience? What kinds of responses do you think he was attempting to get from his audience?
- How does Takeno refer to the evacuation of Japanese Americans and the causes of evacuation throughout his editorial?
- What do you think Takeno hoped to accomplish through his editorial?
- What techniques did he use to accomplish his goals?
- Do you think that Takeno's editorial was effective? Why or why not?
One technique that writers employ to make their stories powerful and vibrant is the use of detail. Detail can help readers to visualize a story. It also makes writing more interesting and authentic.
Read a short story and make note of passages that include a lot of detail. Select one or more of these passages and analyze the use of detail with the following questions:
- What does the detail add to this passage? How does it affect you as a reader?
- What would this passage be like without the detail?
- What role does this passage play? Does it contribute to the plot, develop a character, create symbolism, or describe a setting?
- How does the detail relate to the role of the passage?
Practice using detail by writing a brief description of one of Adams's photographs of Manzanar. Browse the Subject Index for images with a lot of visual detail.