Japanese American Internment

Contributor: Sarah Lerdal. Lesson ID: 11495

Have you ever been picked on because of your color or religion, or been disliked for something someone in your group did? Find how it 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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While watching this First Look at "Paradise" from the New Broadway Musical ALLEGIANCE video by Broadwaycom, 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?

Discuss these questions with your teacher or parent, then 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?

Before continuing, if you missed or need to review the previous Related Lesson on Pearl Harbor in our US and WWII series, go to the right-hand sidebar.

Use the resources below to try to answer 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?

The Gilder Lehrman article, From Citizen to Enemy: The Tragedy of Japanese Internment (Julie Des Jardins), will explain the historical facts related to these lyrics. Fear of the Japanese Americans committing espionage was rampant, and that was a reason given for imprisoning these people. During the course of the war, ten people were convicted of spying for Japan, but all were white.

For a better visual perspective, view NPR's images, Photos: 3 Very Different Views Of Japanese Internment (Adrian Florido). As noted, the government censored photographer Dorothea Lange's images, while celebrating the photos taken by Ansel Adams. Take a look at more of Ansel Adams' pictures at 46 photos of life at a Japanese internment camp, taken by Ansel Adams (Brian Jones, 2013), and think about why the government would support his photographs.

George Takei's Why I love a country that once betrayed me TED talk (below) tells of his family's struggles and successes during and after internment. He speaks of Japanese American soldiers, those 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 has just forced your family to give up their home, career, and lifestyle , because they thought you could not be trusted?

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Near the end of December 1945, all internment camps had been closed except for Tule Lake Segregation Center. 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. Discuss with your parent or teacher what you have learned.

Next, in the Got It? section, you will consider how you could teach this information to a child.

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