On Sunday, December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was famously bombed by Imperial Japan, directly resulting in the United States’ entry into World War II. But did you know that on February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which led to the forced relocation and incarceration of more than 110,000 Japanese Americans, more than half of whom were American-born US citizens?
After Pearl Harbor, political and military leaders suspected that Japan was planning an attack on the West Coast, which was also the region with the highest population of Japanese Americans. As a result of the president’s order, entire families, including some 30,000 children, had to abandon their homes and businesses. They were placed in camps known as Relocation Centers where they lived in tarpaper barracks, without plumbing or cooking facilities, for up to four years, until the end of World War II.
During the 1960s and 1970s, a movement began among young Japanese Americans seeking a formal apology from the US government and financial reparations for those who had been interred. This led to formal investigations and eventually to the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 and the Civil Liberties Act Amendments of 1992, both of which allocated funds for financial redress to remaining internees.
February 19, 2017 marked the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066. To learn more about these events, check out your local library. You can also find photographs documenting these events online, including many by famous Depression-era photographer Dorothea Lange.