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Ancestry is Not a Crime: The Internment of People of Japanese Descent During World War II (curricula)

Creators: Lilian Y. Yamasaki, Eileen H. Tamura, Linda K. Menton


To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, the Hawai'i state legislature funded the development of Ancestry is Not a Crime , focused on the forced removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans. The 192-page curriculum aims to engage elementary through high school students with this complex history, to wrestle with the meaning of democratic principles, and to think critically about civil liberties and the responsibilities of a democratic citizenry.

The curriculum consists of lesson plans that are organized into different grade levels: elementary, middle, and high school. The lessons are sequential and build upon one another, although if available class time is a concern, a teacher could use select lessons with appropriate set up. Primary source materials (historic photos, drawings, government documents, personal accounts, poetry, political cartoons) are incorporated into lessons and serve to deepen historical understanding of the impact of forced removal and incarceration on Japanese Americans. At the secondary levels, there is additional focus on constitutional rights, an exploration of how the decision was made to incarcerate Japanese Americans, an analysis of four Supreme Court cases ( Gordon K. Hirabayashi , Minoru Yasui , Fred T. Korematsu , and Mitsuye Endo ), and an examination of government redress .

Lessons contained in the curriculum:

Unit One – Elementary Level

What is Discrimination? (Two class periods)

December 7, 1941 (Three class periods)

Removal (Four class periods)

Life Behind Barbed Wire (Three class periods)

Unit Two – Middle School Level

What is Discrimination? (Four class periods)

When Discrimination Takes Place on a Larger Scale (Two class periods)

Removal (Five to six class periods)

Life Behind Barbed Wire (Six class periods)

What About the Constitution? (Five to six class periods)

Unit Three – High School Level

Who Should be Granted the Right to Become a Naturalized Citizen? (Two class periods)

The Larger Story (Three class periods)

"The Constitution is Just a Scrap of Paper . . . " (Two class periods)

Removal (Two class periods)

"Am I an American or Not?" (Three class periods)

Living Behind Barbed Wire (One-two class periods)

Resistance: What Is a Good American? (One class period)

Redress (Four class periods)

Several scholars brought their expertise to this curriculum, including Roger Daniels, Arthur A. Hansen, Yuji Ichioka , and Eric K. Yamamoto. The curriculum was published by the State of Hawai'i, Department of Education, in November 1994.

Authored by Janet Hayakawa , Densho