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Collection Japanese-American Internment Camp Newspapers, 1942 to 1946

About this Collection

Produced by the Japanese-Americans interned at assembly centers and relocation centers around the country during World War II, these newspapers provide a unique look into the daily lives of the people who were held in these camps. They include articles written in English and Japanese, typed, handwritten and drawn. They advertise community events, provide logistical information about the camps and relocation, report on news from the community, and include editorials.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, fears ran high among the American people. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942, allowing for the exclusion of persons from designated areas for security purposes. The order did not designate any specific group for exclusion, but in practice it was primarily used against people of Japanese ancestry, both citizens and legal residents. There was no mass incarceration of American citizens or residents from any other group. A 1982 Congressional commission later noted in their report, Personal Justice Denied, that “the broad historical causes which shaped these decisions were race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership.”[1]

Nearly 120,000 American citizens and residents of Japanese descent living along the West Coast were removed from their homes, bringing only what they could carry. They were forced to go to various assembly centers and relocation centers located throughout the Western United States. These camps, run by the Army and the War Relocation Authority, were created with temporary structures and barracks, surrounded by barbed wire. The living conditions were deplorable with large families housed in small rooms or even converted stables, and barracks that were not insulated against harsh winters or high heat. The rudimentary living conditions and prison-like environment, however, did not prohibit the people in these camps from forming their own communities and culture.

Within the camps, residents organized themselves and filled necessary functions such as organizing schools and libraries. They also began producing their own publications, including newspapers. Before internment there had been a long history of Japanese American newspapers being published in the West. One of the journalists from Poston noted that “the Japanese community considered the newspaper as necessary.”[2] By April 11, 1942, less than a month after the first Exclusion Order, the Manzanar Free Press began publication at the Manzanar Relocation Center in Inyo County, California. As other camps were established, many began their own publications as well, some of which lasted until the camp closures 1945-46. Included in this collection are 29 newspaper titles (in English, Japanese, or both) from camps in seven states.

  1. United States. Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians. Personal Justice Denied : Report of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians. Reprinted for the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs. 102d Congress, 2d Session, Committee Print No. 6. Washington DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1992. P18. Available digitally at: https://www.archives.gov/research/japanese-americans/justice-denied [Return to text]
  2. Dorothy Swaine Thomas. Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement: The Salvage. Berkeley CA, University of California Press, 1952. p.217. [Return to text]
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