Japanese American Internment

Contributor: Sarah Lerdal. Lesson ID: 11495

Are you ever picked on because of your color or religion or disliked for something someone in your family did? Discover how this was taken to an extreme in the United States during World War II!


United States

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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The Broadway musical Allegiance is based on a true story.

Watch the performance below of one of its songs and pay attention to the story that is being told.

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  • What did you learn from the song?
  • What was the story about?

Write down what you already know about Japanese internment, including what you may have learned from the song in the musical.

  • What questions do you still have?

Explore the resources in this lesson to discover the answers to these questions.

  • Who was interned?
  • Why were they interned?
  • For how long were they relocated?
  • What was life like inside the camps?
  • How did they adjust after the camps were closed?

First, learn about the historical facts related to the lyrics in the song you heard as you read From Citizen to Enemy: The Tragedy of Japanese Internment.

Fear of the Japanese Americans committing espionage was rampant, which was a reason for imprisoning these people. However, only ten people were convicted of spying for Japan during the war, and all were white.

For visual perspective, explore these Photos: 3 Very Different Views Of Japanese Internment. As noted, the government censored photographer Dorothea Lange's images while celebrating the photos taken by Ansel Adams.

Take a look at 46 photos of life at a Japanese internment camp, taken by Ansel Adams, and think about why the government would support his photographs.

The story of Allegiance is based on the real-life story of George Takei, best known for his work on the "Star Trek" television show.

In his TED talk entitled Why I love a country that once betrayed me (below), he  tells of his family's struggles and successes during and after the internment. He speaks of Japanese American soldiers born in the United States and called "Nisei."

As citizens, they were asked to fight for America. Many fought as soldiers, contributed as interpreters, and worked in war production factories.

  • How would you feel about working and fighting for a country that had forced your family to give up their home, career, and lifestyle because they thought you could not be trusted?

Hear George tell his story.

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Near the end of December 1945, all internment camps except for Tule Lake Segregation Center were closed. It was shut down in March of 1946.

Forty-two years later, the United States government formally apologized for the internment of Japanese and Japanese Americans. President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act that paid out $20,000 to each surviving victim.

Review all the notes you took before heading to the Got It? section and consider how you would teach this information to a child.

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