1942 February 19

Tragedy: FDR Authorizes Japanese-American Evacuation


President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed executive order 9066 on this day, authorizing the military to declare military zones on the West Coast and to evacuate people. The Order set in motion the evacuation and internment of the Japanese-Americans during World War II. Many Americans regard the treatment of the Japanese-Americans as one of the greatest civil liberties tragedy in American history. The Order, however, did not mention Japanese-Americans specifically, and said nothing about what would become of the people evacuated.

About 120,000 Japanese-Americans were evacuated from the West Coast and detained in Relocation Centers that were, for all practical purposes, concentration camps. The Supreme Court upheld the curfew involving Gordon Hirabayashi, and by extension the constitutionality of the government’s program, in Hirabayashi v. United States, decided on June 21, 1943, and Korematsu v. United States, on December 18, 1944. In the case of Ex parte Endo, also on December 18, 1944, however, the Court ruled that the government could not detain persons it conceded as loyal, a decision that effectively ended the government’s program. After a long campaign for redress, Congress, on August 10, 1988, passed the 1988 Civil Liberties Act, apologizing for the evacuation and internment and providing $20,000 in reparations for each surviving victim.

Read the Order: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/print.php?pid=61698

Visit the Japanese-American Museum: http://www.janm.org/

Read: Greg Robinson, By Order of the President: FDR and the Internment of Japanese Americans (2001)

View Dorothea Lange’s Internment Camp Photographs:

Read: Linda Gordon and Gary Y. Okihiro (eds), Impounded: Dorothea Lange and the Censored Images of Japanese American Internment (2008)

View Ansel Adams’s Photographs of Manzanar War Relocation Center in California:

Read Original Documents on the Evacuation and Internment :

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