Japanese American Incarceration

The Camps and Coerced Labor during World War II

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Pub Date 19 Oct 2021 | Archive Date 20 Jul 2021

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Description

Between 1942 and 1945, the U.S. government wrongfully imprisoned thousands of Japanese American citizens and profited from their labor. Japanese American Incarceration recasts the forced removal and incarceration of approximately 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II as a history of prison labor and exploitation.

Following Franklin Roosevelt's 1942 Executive Order 9066, which called for the exclusion of potentially dangerous groups from military zones along the West Coast, the federal government placed Japanese Americans in makeshift prisons throughout the country. In addition to working on day-to-day operations of the camps, Japanese Americans were coerced into harvesting crops, digging irrigation ditches, paving roads, and building barracks for little to no compensation and often at the behest of privately run businesses—all in the name of national security.

How did the U.S. government use incarceration to address labor demands during World War II, and how did imprisoned Japanese Americans respond to the stripping of not only their civil rights, but their labor rights as well? Using a variety of archives and collected oral histories, Japanese American Incarceration uncovers the startling answers to these questions. Stephanie Hinnershitz's timely study connects the government's exploitation of imprisoned Japanese Americans to the history of prison labor in the United States.

Between 1942 and 1945, the U.S. government wrongfully imprisoned thousands of Japanese American citizens and profited from their labor. Japanese American Incarceration recasts the forced removal and...


Advance Praise

"By showing us how imprisonment and prison labor shaped both the organization and implementation of Japanese American incarceration, Hinnershitz's book exposes a deeper infringement of Japanese Americans' rights than had been previously understood and compels us to revise how we teach this tragic chapter in American history."
—Erika Lee, author of America for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in the United States

"By showing us how imprisonment and prison labor shaped both the organization and implementation of Japanese American incarceration, Hinnershitz's book exposes a deeper infringement of Japanese...


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ISBN 9780812253368
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Featured Reviews

This story is not told often enough, and this book does an amazing job of explaining the circumstances that these Americans found themselves in, but tried to make the best of it. A worthy read.

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Japanese American Incarceration by Stephanie D Hinnershitz is a well researched and articulated account of the injustice done by the United States government to a specific portion of its own citizenry.

The book really does two main things: details what the government did during WWII to Japanese Americans and places that injustice within the bigger picture of prison labor, which itself falls under the even broader umbrella of forced labor.

In presenting the incarceration itself the reader not only learns what was actually done but just how intentional it all was from the beginning. Many tried to speak up but FDR was not to be deterred. Just as with those who refused to stand up for what was right and ethical in the recent administration (and thus an insurrection and continuing lies dividing the country), those in FDR's administration only voiced their concerns but followed through anyway. We must, as individuals, learn that no President should have the power to act unethically, whether one like FDR who did more good than bad or one like Trump who only served himself.

Within the larger context Hinnershitz places this period within the prison labor history of the US, especially within the Jim Crow abuse of power, again based on race and little to no actual legal justification. This country has largely been built on forced labor, from slavery through Jim Crow laws and the unethical use of immigrant labor. Yeah, home of the free, with certain caveats.

This is a detailed and mainly academic book but is written in a voice that makes it accessible to most readers with an interest in the topic. I would highly recommend this to anyone interested in US history, especially 20th century history, as well as those interested in social justice.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.

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The injustice done by the American government towards a part of its citizens, that of Japanese ancestry, during WWII has for a long time been a glanced-over subject both in art and academia. Luckily, this is slowly changing through albums such as Kishi Bashi's Omoiyari or the second season of the TV show The Terror. Stephanie Hinnershitz's rigorously well-researched and written book presents the topic from an academic perspective. Through it, we can see all of the wrongdoings of the USA and the rampant xenophobia and japanophobia, both of which continue up to present day.

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