Prisoners at Home: Everyday Life in Japanese Internment Camps

Prisoners at Home: Everyday Life in Japanese Internment Camps


A portrait of Dave Tatsuno and his family at Topaz War Relocation Center in Utah, 1945. Courtesy of the Topaz Museum via Mountain West Digital Library.

In This Exhibition

On December 7, 1941, Imperial Japan attacked a US naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Pre-existing racial tensions and “yellow peril” hysteria magnified as the American public grew increasingly suspicious of Japanese Americans and uncertain of their loyalty. They were regarded as potential spies and anti-Japanese propaganda quickly spread.

Then, on February 19, 1942, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066. 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry (two-thirds of whom were US citizens) were forced to evacuate from their homes and report to assembly centers. From there, they were moved to one of ten internment camps, or War Relocation Centers, located in remote areas of seven states—California, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, and Arkansas.

For the next three years, Japanese Americans acclimated to life behind barbed wire and under armed guard. Uprooted from their lives, they found themselves in strange and uncomfortable environments. They had to adapt to their new situation by adjusting to new living conditions, attending new schools, and finding inventive ways to pass the time. They attempted to maintain a sense of normalcy by attending religious meetings and by finding employment.

This exhibition tells stories of everyday lives in Japanese Internment camps during World War II.

Credit: This exhibition was created as part of the DPLA’s Digital Curation Program by the following students as part of Dr. Joan E. Beaudoin's course "Metadata in Theory and Practice" in the School of Library and Information Science at Wayne State University: Stephanie Chapman, Jessica Keener, Nicole Sobota, and Courtney Whitmore.