Eleven tumultuous weeks after Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, an act that authorized the U.S. Army to undertake the rapid removal of more than one hundred thousand Japanese and Japanese Americans from the West Coast. With only a few weeks (and sometimes only a few days) notice, families were forced to abandon their homes and, under military escort, be removed to remote and hastily erected compounds, such as Manzanar War Relocation Center in the California desert. Children of Manzanar captures the experiences of the nearly four thousand children and young adults held at Manzanar during World War II. Quotes from these children, most now in their eighties and nineties, are accompanied by photographs from both official and unofficial photographers, including Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, and Toyo Miyatake, himself an internee who for months secretly documented daily life inside the camp, and then openly for the remaining years Manzanar operated.
These photos and remembrances—most of them archival treasures from Manzanar National Historic Site, and many appearing here in print for the first time—vividly record a barren world of guard towers, barbed wire fences, and tarpapered barracks, while also capturing the remarkable resilience of children, shown skipping rope, doing homework, and growing up. You will see fear and anxiety when you look into their eyes, but you will also see that indelible spark of joyous abandon unique to childhood.
The year 2012 marks the seventieth anniversary of Executive Order 9066, and Children of Manzanar serves as a very personal view of this bleak chapter in American history, when Japanese bloodlines overshadowed American birthrights. It is a moving account of the battle between oppression and the strength of the human spirit.
Copublished with the Manzanar History Association