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In-Depth Interview: Will America Repeat the Dark History of Japanese-American Incarceration?

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Richard Cahan, former photo editor at Chicago Sun-Times, is co-editor of powerful new book of photos/text depicting the wartime detention of 110,000 Japanese-Americans from 1942-45, an ugly chapter in American history that may be repeated with Muslims as the victims.The powerful, important new book is Un-American: The Incarceration of Japanese-Americans During World War II, by Richard Cahan and Michael Williams, with incredible pictures taken by Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange and others.  Available at Amazon and most book stores, signed copies available here.

Cahan offers a well-informed account of the discriminatory detention of Japanese-Americans, and explains how President Roosevelt signed an order allowing the military to decide how to displace people of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast.  Within weeks of Pearl Harbor, 75 years ago, Japanese-Americans were rounded up on very short notice, and ordered to report to holding facilities from which they were transferred to 10 prisons that were hurriedly set up in remote locations.

We open with a discussion about Manzanar, a California camp where Adams and Lange took many photos, and where there were brief uprisings by the prisoners.  The opening music, by Looters, is called “Manzanar”.  The Ansel Adams photo below is of Manzanar.

We discuss the politics that led to this unconstitutional class punishment without due process, including the major role played by California’s governor, Earl Warren.  We also talk about the language that was used to attempt to soften the impact of barbarous actions.  We talk about George Takai, former cabinet officer Norman Mineta and others who survived the ordeal and thrived, and note that many usung people never recovered.

This conversation about history has many important parallels to the present day, including the fate of “Dreamers” who may lose protection from deportation in the next administration.