Monday Memories: Executive Order 9066, connecting past and present
Several years ago, I posted a quick article highlighting the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066. It was a good reminder for me about the power and impact of executive orders. As you begin to plan for the upcoming school year, don’t shy away from using primary sources like photographs that document uncomfortable topics. Lean into them.
Today? A Monday Memory flashback post from 2017.
You all know photographer Dorothea Lange. If not Dorothea herself, you’ll recognize her famous candid photos taken during the 1930s highlighting the struggles of Americans suffering during the Great Depression. Her iconic Migrant Mother and the series of photos around that image depict the desperation many felt during the period.
Later in 1942, she was hired by the US government to capture images of the relocation of Japanese-Americans affected by President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066. Thousands of American citizens were being stripped of their civil liberties, their businesses, and their homes before being placed in internment camps scattered around the country.
Lange was originally opposed to the idea but accepted the task because she thought “a true record of the evacuation would be valuable in the future.” But after reviewing her photographs and their portrayal of the Japanese American experience, the military became concerned how the images of the internment program would be received by the public.
So government leaders seized the photos for the duration of World War II and deposited them in the National Archives, making them unavailable for viewing. Not until 2006 were the censored pictures finally released.
Lange’s photographs and other documents from the period provide a powerful tool for training students to think historically and to connect past events with contemporary issues. Ansel Adams and other photographers also documented the internment process. Many of the photos taken by Lange and Adams are now available online as well as articles and resources that can be used to create engaging and powerful learning activities.
- Is History Repeating Itself PSA (For starting conversation about connecting past and present)
Then poke around several online resources highlighting Lange’s images and oral histories:
- Once-Censored Photos of the WWII Japanese Internment Camps Are Finally Revealed
My Modern Met
- Executive Order 9066 – which sent my family to a concentration camp – turns 75
- Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange’s photos of camps where Japanese-Americans were incarcerated in WW2
International Business Times
- Dorothea Lange Photos Lead Historians to Japanese Camp Survivors
- When Japanese Americans Were Caged: 75 Years After Executive Order 9066
- 75 Years Ago, the Secretary of the Navy Falsely Blamed Japanese-Americans for Pearl Harbor
- States in US West mark 75th anniversary of internment order
- A look at Japanese internment camps in Arkansas on the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
You can find a variety of teaching tools and lesson plans: