Formerly Incarcerated Japanese Americans Organize a Protest Against Family Separation at the Border

March 27, 2019

In February 1942, a couple of months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, forcibly removing people of Japanese descent from their homes on the West Coast and putting them in hastily built camps where they were incarcerated for the remainder of the war.

The War Relocation Authority hired photographer Dorothea Lange to document the internment. One photo shows a group of Japanese Americans, dressed in suits, dresses, and hats, lining up to register. One woman is stepping out of line to look ahead, a distressed look on her face.

The photo hangs in an exhibition at Futures Without Violence in San Francisco’s Presidio, Then They Came For Me: Incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII and the Demise of Civil Liberties, which tells the story of the 120,000 Japanese Americans — two-thirds of them born in the United States — incarcerated without due process. They had to leave their homes and businesses and take only what they could carry to one of 10 internment camps.