Archives in Context: Teachable Topics from the CSU Japanese American Digitization Project

Incarceration of People of Japanese Descent During WWII: Loyalty Determination

The following provides guidance for teaching U.S. History with a focus on the incarceration of people of Japanese descent during WWII. This lesson places an emphasis on one aspect in particular, the consternation caused by the questionnaire that was used to determine the loyalty of the Japanese and Japanese Americans incarcerated in War Relocation Authority camps and the subsequent removal of “disloyals” to the Tule Lake Segregation Camp.

What did loyalty mean to the people of Japanese ancestry incarcerated during WWII? For an overview of the topic, a suggested starting point is the California State University Japanese American History Digitization Project (CSUJAD) Exhibit .

Grade Level: 10 through 16

Preparation: Make copies (paper or digital access) of background reading assignment, timeline, and activity sheets appearing in the subsequent pages of this chapter. 

Time Requirement: One to two class periods, with a reading assignment the night before.

Learning Objectives: 

Students will explore and be able to better understand the social and political issues, government interventions, and complexity of life in the camps where 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry were incarcerated during WWII. The California story of the Tule Lake Segregation Camp will be used to explore issues related to loyalty determination in times of war. Students will search for and analyze archival documents to shed light on issues and controversies that arose. 

Lesson Activities & Guiding Questions:

Assign students the background reading assignment (Appendix A) and have them examine the timeline (Appendix B) before teaching the lesson in the classroom. Keep the overriding lesson question in mind throughout the activities— What did loyalty mean to the people of Japanese ancestry incarcerated during WWII? Students should read and analyze the primary sources when provided and answer the guiding questions.


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