Use the Activities
Putting It All Together
The following activities will help students apply what they have learned in this lesson about the World War II relocation centers and the fear and prejudice that led to their creation.
Activity 1: The Rights of Citizens
Ask students to assume they are Nisei protesting the internment on legal grounds. Have each student prepare a list of the rights of citizens as protected by the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Then have several students present their lists, explain which rights were violated by the forced move of American citizens to relocation centers, and explain why the relocation was unconstitutional. Students might want to bolster their arguments through studying important Supreme Court cases related to the relocation. The cases of Mitsuye Endo, Fred Korematsu, and Gordon Hirabayashi, which went to the U.S. Supreme Court, are particularly important. Complete the activity by comparing student lists and holding a class discussion on whether there are any circumstances when unconstitutional behavior by the government can be justified.
Activity 2: Being There
Ask students to imagine they are Japanese American young people living in California in 1941. Have them create diary entries that describe how they felt when they heard about the Pearl Harbor attack, when they read headlines in the newspapers talking about the need to remove people like them from their homes, when they saw the posted evacuation order, and when they first saw the relocation center. Have students share their work with others and then discuss what they have learned about the relocation.
Activity 3: Reactions
To help students explore the story of the war relocation centers in more depth, divide the class into three groups. Ask the first group to look at newspapers from mid-1942 to 1945 to compare coverage of the relocation camps later in the war with the headlines and stories in Reading 1. Past issues of local newspapers can usually be found in larger public libraries. Ask the second group to study some of the web sites listed in "Supplemental Resources" or the books in the "For Further Reading" section to learn more about the experiences of people living in the centers. On August 10, 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed the the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which provided for a formal apology and a payment of $20,000 for each surviving evacuee, and the creation of an education fund to teach the public about the relocations. Ask the third group to investigate newspaper accounts of the debates surrounding this legislation and to compare them with wartime attitudes towards the Japanese. Ask each group to report to the class. Hold a full class discussion on the question of whether students think that the 1988 legislation was an appropriate way to acknowledge official wrong-doing and compensate the victims, and whether they think the education program should have been included and, if so, why.
4. Lest We Forget
World War II was not the only time in American history when fear led
to persecution, and Japanese Americans were not the only "enemy aliens"
detained during the war. Have the class study the treatment of American
Indians during the settlement period, Yankees or Rebels during the Civil
War, German Americans during World War I, German Americans or Italian Americans during World War
II, or suspected Communists during the Cold War period. How does the treatment of these groups compare with the Japanese American experience in World War II?
Ask the class to find
out if their community has ever treated people unfairly out of fear.
Discuss the role of acknowledging wrong-doing in healing conflicts.
Then ask students to interview someone who experienced such an event
or write an essay about one of the situations they researched, including
their opinion about whether compensation was due to any person or group,
and if the conflict should be memorialized. How would they design a
memorial for the situation they researched? What would they write on
the memorial and where would they place it?