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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.

executive_order_9066Lange’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.

dorothea-lange-internment-camps-11Start with:

Then poke around several online resources highlighting Lange’s images and oral histories:

map_of_world_war_ii_japanese_american_internment_campsBrowse a variety of resources telling the story:

You can find a variety of teaching tools and lesson plans:

One Comment Post a comment
  1. Thanks for this useful tools for information!

    July 13, 2020

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