Exposing Injustice: Incarceration of Japanese Americans

In the months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt issued an executive order calling for the forced removal and imprisonment of Japanese Americans on the West Coast. The War Department hired Lange to photograph the process. During the Depression, Lange had shared the government’s desire to help refugees. Now that same government was rounding up American citizens on the basis of their race. At odds with her employers, Lange’s instincts led her to photograph the tragic and disgraceful effects of the order. In response, many of her photographs were censored and remained unseen for decades.

We have a disease. It’s Jap-baiting and hatred. I went through an experience I’ll never forget when I was working on it and learned a lot, even if I accomplished nothing. — Dorothea Lange