From the UC Berkeley Library:
In the spring of 1942, approximately 120,000 Japanese Americans were banished from their homes, shuffled into squalid detainment centers as internment camps were built. Uchida’s letter is one of thousands held in The Bancroft Library, where the memory of a national shame lives on.
“Some day, some time, some other may want to read this,” Uchida writes, “these notes of an event which has never before happened and which I hope cannot and will not ever happen again to any other group of people.”
But today, more than 75 years later, new images come to mind: a young immigrant child crying for her parents; tinfoil blankets on a hard floor; refugees on the border packed into cages like fish in a net.
“I said probably 10,000 times that the reason we’re doing this is to prevent it from happening again,” says John Tateishi ’65, a UC Berkeley alum who in the late ’70s led the national redress campaign for Japanese Americans, which culminated in a national apology and reparations for those who had been detained. “I never thought it would actually come to that,” he says.
Sharing eye-opening records of the tragedy far and wide, the Library has now digitized more than 500,000 materials on Japanese internment, including firsthand accounts and government records. Behind those documents is a tale of evil justified — and what it took to get there.
The Bancroft Library holds one of the most comprehensive collections of materials on the internment of Japanese Americans in the world.
In 2011, the Library undertook a massive project: digitizing the collection. With funding from the National Park Service’s Japanese American Confinement Sites grant program, or JACS, the Library has digitized 550,000 items. (Browse the collections on the Library’s digital archive.)
Now, with a fifth JACS grant confirmed, an additional 150,000 items are on the way. The Library will be creating anonymized datasets from WRA identification forms, which include everything from internees’ religions and education levels to their hobbies. The Library, which has the only complete set of these forms, will provide the datasets to the National Archives.
Among the items already digitized is a trove of maps showing the concentration of Japanese people and businesses in the Bay Area before they were stripped of their property and evacuated.
Direct to Digital Archive