Hidden Memory: Japanese American Incarceration

 

Knowing your family’s story . . . and why it matters

by Storyteller Anne Shimojima

This unit raises the challenge for you and your students of knowing your family’s story – and why it matters. Other themes : How a national crisis can lead to xenephobia and the subtitles of institutional racism …. all told through the warm and lively storytelling style of professional storyteller Anne Shimojima as she recalls her Japanese American family and history.. Lesson Plan, story-text, student activities and audio-downloads. 

During World War II, the government of the United States authorized the arrest and relocation of every Japanese American on the West Coast. 120,000 Japanese Americans, the majority of whom were citizens, were forced into incarceration camps for the duration of the war.  During this time, Japanese-American men still served in the U. S. military even as their families were held prisoner at home.  Although the Congress passed the Evacuation Claims Act in 1948, which allowed incarcerees to make a claim against the government to recover a small percentage of their losses, this program was a failure.  It was not until 1988 that the U. S. government issued a formal apology and attempted in earnest to make reparation for the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.

This lesson plan uses the story “Hidden Memory” by professional storyteller Anne Shimojima.  In this story, Shimojima tells about the experience of her family in the United States, especially during the time of World War II when some of her family were sent to the Incarceration camps

Use this story to teach about how easily racism and xenophobia can arise during times of war and national panic, what it is like to feel “unseen” in America, how people can survive adversity, and to commemorate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in May.

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Lesson Plan

Download the Hidden Memory: Japanese American Incarceration lesson plan (PDF)

Story Excerpts

The following MP3 track contains 4 story excerpts for use with the Hidden Memory: Japanese American Incarceration lesson plan. Please note that these excerpts are protected by copyright and are exclusively for educational use.

Hidden Memory – Part One — 6:17 minutes

Hidden Memory – Part Two 5:32 minutes

Hidden Memory – Part Three — 7:28 minutes

Hidden Memory – Part Four 8:01 minutes

Need help to download the MP3 Story Excerpts? Click here for directions.

.Video Stories

Two short video versions of Anne Shimojima’s stories EVACUATION and INCARCERATION can be found below.

EVACUATION

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INCARCERATION

 

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About Storyteller Anne Shimojima

Like many Japanese-American families, Anne’s Shimojima’s family didn’t talk about their experiences during World War II. Gathering family photographs and interviewing a 91-year-old aunt opened the way to uncovering the story, and helped Anne to articulate her own identity as a Japanese-American.

Anne tells stories from her Asian background and around the world. Her thirty-plus years as an elementary school library media specialist have given her a rich knowledge of story and a keen ear for performance. She enriches the curriculum with stories and teaches her students to become storytellers themselves. Anne performs in schools, libraries, museums, and festivals, and gives workshops on the use of storytelling in education and on the creation of family history projects.

 

Evacuation

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Evacuation

 

A Short Video Story

 

by Anne Shimojima

 

Introduction:

Interested in knowing what life was really like for Japanese Americans following the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941? Take a journey with storyteller Anne Shimojima as she tells not only her own personal family experiences of the event, but relates the difficulties faced by many Japanese Americans at the onset of WWII.

Summary:

With honest and detailed reflection, storyteller Anne Shimojima tells the personal story of the forced evacuation of her grandparents following the attack on Pearl Harbor. While setting the stage with warm recollections of who her grandfather was, she interlaces historical facts to build a foundation of awareness.

Relating hardships faced my many Japanese Americans, Shimojima explains how prejudice and discrimination resulted from unadulterated rumor and fear. She recounts the bitterness that she saw in the faces of her loved ones, and how their experiences in the forced evacuation profoundly affected her family. Listen as she brings a new understanding to a long misunderstood and overlooked aspect of American history.

Classroom Applications:

  • Invite a guest speaker who experiences persecution to come to share stories with students
  • Watch the short film The Wave to show students how people are easily influenced when fear and rumor are involved (film is easily found online)
  • Create a set of interview questions, and have students interview an older family member or friend.

Watch the video now

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Explore our many other RaceBridges Studios videos for

Asian American Month or any time of the year.