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A Lesson in American History: The Japanese American Experience, Curriculum and Resource Guide, 5th Edition (curricula)

Creators: Japanese American Citizens League


Created by the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), this 150-page guide for teachers is a comprehensive resource focused on the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans. It provides historical information, a timeline, an annotated listing of K-12 resource materials (books, audio and visual works, websites, museum exhibits, agencies and organizations), K-6 and 7-12 lesson plans, and an appendix of various primary source materials. The content also covers other historic events when the government restricted the rights of individual citizens in favor of national security, including the story of Arab and Muslim Americans in the aftermath of September 11, 2001.

The historical overview traces the root causes of Anti-Asian sentiment to the California Gold Rush in the mid-1800s. This section further explains Japanese immigration prior to the war; the outbreak of the war which provides anti-Japanese advocates just cause for mass incarceration; the process of removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans; the government's assessment of loyalty ; Japanese Americans in the military ; draft resisters ; Supreme Court cases of ( Minoru Yasui , Gordon Hirabayashi , Fred Korematsu , Mitsuye Endo ); the challenges of resettlement after the war; the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (authorized by Congress in 1980); and the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 . Historical photos, background on terminology and euphemisms, and information about Latin Americans who were also incarcerated are included.

Important dates in Japan-United States relations and policies are annotated in a timeline format from 1790–2009. This chronology is organized under the following headings: The Early Years; Immigration and Anti-Japanese Activities; World War II and Imprisonment of Japanese Aliens and Citizens; Post-War; Campaign for Redress. Also noted are public policies at the state and federal levels addressing the Japanese American incarceration, as well as Japanese Americans in public service, and honors given to specific individuals.

The learning activities are divided into "Elementary" (second through sixth grade) and "Intermediate and Secondary" (seventh through twelfth grade). Five of the six elementary lessons are related to specific texts: The Bracelet (1993) by Yoshiko Uchida , Baseball Saved Us (1993) by Ken Mochizuki, Welcome Home Swallows (2001) by Marlene Shigekawa, Journey to Topaz (1971) by Yoshiko Uchida, and Japanese American Journey (1985). There are eight intermediate/secondary lessons, four of these use primary source documents (exclusion order, Bill of Rights, Korematsu vs. United States , and the Patriot Act). The lesson focused on The Journal of Ben Uchida: Citizen 13559, Mirror Lake Internment Camp California, 1942 (1999) by Barry Denenberg may be more appropriate for fourth through sixth grade.

For teachers who want to design their own learning activities, the appendix is rich with relevant primary source documents ( Executive Order 9066 , Loyalty Questionnaire, Exclusion Poster, Presidential Apology, selection of photographs). A summary of the violations of Constitutional Rights is useful analysis for U.S. History and/or civics classes; it identifies the related rights and freedoms, the Bill of Rights Amendment/Constitutional Article, and the specific violation(s). Additional historical background is provided in selected pages from Japanese American Journey: The Story of a People as well as in articles by Wendy Ng, "Japanese Americans in the Military and Resisters of Conscience" and "Japanese American Redress" by Mitchell T. Maki.

The 5th edition added new information to update the 4th edition (2002). This includes: "The Power of Words," which explains the wartime use of euphemisms; and "Civil Liberties in Crisis," a two-part section examining the experience of Arab and Muslim Americans in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, as well noting the various constitutional crises that the United States has faced throughout its history. The resource list is also revised.

Political debates in California in the late 1980s and early 1990s prompted the JACL to develop the first edition of this curriculum and resource guide in 1996. This is noted by Alexandra Wood in "After Apology: Public Education as Redress for Japanese American and Japanese Canadian Confinement" (pages 205-210). The National Education Committee of the JACL with support from JACL chapters, districts, and volunteers drafted the curriculum based on a model provided by the Day of Remembrance Curriculum Committee of the San Francisco Unified School District, National Japanese American Historical Society , Sonoma Chapter of the JACL Curriculum Guide Committee of the Sonoma County Schools Office of Education and the Sacramento City Unified School District Curriculum Services Department.

Founded in 1929, the JACL is the oldest and largest Asian American civil rights/education organization in the United States.

Authored by Janet Hayakawa , Densho
For More Information

For More Information

A Lesson in American History: The Japanese American Experience, Curriculum and Resource Guide, 5th Edition https://jacl.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/covers.pdf .

Alexandra Wood, "After Apology: Public Education as Redress for Japanese American and Japanese Canadian Confinement" (PhD diss., New York University, 2013).