California State University, Long Beach
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Documenting Japanese Americans Internment

Published: July 1, 2015

Internment camp illustration

Archives at 15 California State University campuses are collaborating to digitize nearly 10,000 documents and more than 100 oral histories related to the confinement of Japanese Americans during World War II.

The National Park Service recently awarded a two-year $321,554 grant to CSU Dominguez Hills, which is serving as the principal investigator for the CSU Japanese American Digitization (CSUJAD) Project. The project will make these materials available on a CSU-sponsored website and also result in a teaching guide and traveling exhibit for schools and the public.

“It is heartening to have the National Park Service acknowledge the scale and importance of the CSU’s collections,” said CSU Dominguez Hills Director of Archives and Special Collections Greg Williams. “The grant will ensure that this significant part of our history can be studied for generations to come.”

Many campuses throughout the CSU system were located near California’s internment camps and Japanese American communities. Throughout the last half century, their archives, libraries, oral history projects and history departments have collected archival and manuscript materials, objects, and media relating to Japanese internment that have yet to be digitized.

With the grant money, participating CSU archives at Bakersfield, Channel Islands, Dominguez Hills, East Bay, Fresno, Fullerton, Long Beach, Northridge, Sacramento, San Jose, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, San Francisco and Sonoma will digitize and catalog their records.

“The Long Beach collection in this project links to the South Bay/Los Angeles Nisei oral history collection, which is a part of CSULB’s Virtual Oral/Aural History Archive (VOAHA). CSUJAD is a great project, both for shedding light on an important part of our history, and for bringing together the historical collections of several CSUs in a way that provides fuller context for the items contained therein,” said Chloé Pascual, Digital Repository/Archivist/Special Collections librarian at CSULB.

The grant was one of 20 awarded by the National Park Service totaling more than $2.8 million to help preserve and interpret the World War II confinement sites of Japanese Americans. More than 120,000 Japanese Americans, two-thirds of whom were American citizens, were imprisoned by the U.S. government following Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

In 1942, an estimated 250 Japanese American students were forced to leave their CSU campuses and relocated to internment camps, under federal Executive Order 9066. In 2009, the CSU Board of Trustees unanimously voted to honor the academic intentions of these students by awarding them special Honorary Bachelor of Humane Letters degrees.