During the months following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, close to 120,000 Japanese Americans, two-thirds of them citizens of the United States, were evacuated from the West Coast and “relocated” to detention camps established by the U.S. Government. Because they looked like the enemy, many would spend the next three years behind barbed wire. Their stories of discrimination and forced removal provide a window into a time when our nation failed to uphold the rights guaranteed to all citizens by the U.S. Constitution — regardless of nationality, race, or ethnicity.
Seventy years later, the incarceration of persons of Japanese ancestry is still not widely understood or recognized by the American public as a “horrendous violation of constitutional rights.”
It is our hope that “I’m American Too — Stories from Behind the Fences” will not only shed light on a darker chapter in our history, but, more importantly, will serve as a call to action to ensure that prejudice and fear are not allowed to upset the delicate balance between the rights of citizens and the power of the state.
The interview clips included in the documentary have been gleaned from the Elk Grove Unified School District’s Time of Remembrance Oral Histories Project. Through our partnership with the Sacramento Educational Cable Consortium and with funding from our district’s Teaching American History grant and the California State Library’s Civil Liberties Public Education Program, we continue to grow this dynamic collection of interviews, resources, and lessons for learning and teaching about the internment experience.
I’m American Too also stems from the ongoing commitment of Elk Grove to record and archive our local “stories from behind the fences.” As a district and as a community, we recognize how the internment of thousands of Japanese-American residents during the war years profoundly affected and forever changed the history of this once small farming community.
We hope the documentary will ignite conversations in classrooms, neighborhoods, and communities on how events from the past connect to the present and on the need to understand and embrace both the rights and responsibilities of that are the foundation of U.S. citizenship.
We also wish to acknowledge our heartfelt appreciation for the Time of Remembrance interviewees. Their first-hand accounts of relocation, resistance, and resilience stand as testimony to the power of the human spirit — and as a reminder of how quickly “the thin veneer of tolerance can be ripped off.”
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To learn more about the Time Remembrance Project, please visit: blogs.egusd.net/tor