Sources and Terminology

A Note about Terminology

The terminology used to refer to the Japanese American incarceration has changed a great deal over time.  Recently, the Japanese American Citizens League voted to approve a resolution endorsing the use of  terms such as “incarceration,” “incarceration camp” or “concentration camp,” and “forcible removal” rather than the euphemisms of the 1940s, such as “assembly center,” “evacuation” and “relocation.”  Although the term “concentration camp” has come to be identified closely with the Holocaust, it was used by U.S. government officials during WWII but purposely avoided in official documentation; thus, many feel the need to reclaim it with all of its “ugly connotations” that worried Supreme Court justice Hugo Black.  The term “internment,” which is commonly used only to refer to the holding of non-citizens, is considered misleading and potentially offensive because of its implications that Japanese Americans were foreign.  However, it is the term still used in most government references (such as the Library of Congress subject terms) and some scholarship.  I gave the students the freedom to follow their individual consciences and choose among the accepted terms.

For several thoughtful discussions of this topic, see here.



Each student’s essay lists its particular references.  However, some of the most commonly used are cited by abbreviation.

PJD refers to Personal Justice Denied: Report of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians.  This report, which was the result of exhaustive testimony collection and research by an independent commission, is available online.  However, internal citations in this exhibit refer to the updated print version (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1996).

Densho: The Japanese American Legacy Project is a digital archive of videotaped interviews, photographs, documents, and other materials relating to the Japanese American experience. Additional information on the project is available at  Several of our exhibit posts link to Densho resources.  Because the website is so complex, they are credited individually, but we thank Densho as a whole for its work in preserving the history of the incarceration.

Most of the photos here are taken from the digital resource site Calisphere, run by the University of California. This searchable site offers a multitide of photos from the incarceration. Photos here are linked and credited.

Calisphere’s site includes many photos taken by the War Relocation Authority’s authorized photographers. Because cameras were confiscated from Japanese Americans soon after Pearl Harbor (due to paranoia about them being possible “spies”), relatively few personal photos exist. However, the WRA photos are in certain cases somewhat posed or censored, and should be viewed accordingly.