Date on Senior Honors Thesis


Document Type

Senior Honors Thesis

Degree Name




Degree Program

College of Arts and Sciences

Author's Keywords

Public History; memory; Japanese American; Internment; Redress


In 1942, the United States government imprisoned over 100,000 Japanese Americans—most of them citizens—in concentration camps for the duration of World War II. After the camps disbanded in 1946, many Japanese Americans struggled to put their lives back together. Still suffering from their Internment trauma, they chose not to speak about their experiences. The American public memory preserved a version of Internment history that encouraged racist stereotypes and neglected the Japanese American perspective. Through the use of public history—in the form of campaigns, pilgrimages, and exhibits—Japanese Americans changed the way Americans remembered the history of Internment and earned Redress for their community in the form of reparations from the United States government. The Redress movement reveals the power of public history to change public opinion and address historical inequities.

Lay Summary

Public history, history packaged for the public, is a tool for social justice. After the United States government forced over 100,000 Japanese Americans—most of them citizens—into concentration camps for the duration of World War II, they suffered generations of trauma as a result of their imprisonment. The war ended in 1945 and the federal government dissolved the camps a year later. However, Japanese Americans had little to return to and still felt threatened by the anti-Japanese hysteria that caused Internment. They believed they had to remain silent about their history to protect themselves and their families. As a result of their silence and the federal government’s effort to erase Internment history, the general public remembered this history differently than the Japanese American community. As attitudes toward challenging the government changed during the civil rights era, Japanese Americans began to revise Internment history using pilgrimages to the concentration camps, campaigns to repeal a law that allowed concentration camps in the United States, and exhibitions to highlight Japanese American memories of Internment. These efforts to rewrite the history eventually enabled Japanese Americans to earn Redress.