Richard Cahan and Michael Williams will speak about their book Un-American: The Incarceration of Japanese Americans During World War II during a Society of Midland Authors program at 6 p.m. Tuesday, September 12, at the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State St., Chicago. Admission is free, and no advance reservations are required.
Noted photo historians Cahan and Williams have assembled a powerful history of one of America’s defining moments. Their book consists of photographs that have never been published, some impounded by the U.S. Army during the war. It also uses primary source government documents to place the pictures in context. And it relies on firsthand recollections of Japanese-American survivors to offer a wide perspective.
In 1942, the United States rounded up 109,000 residents of Japanese ancestry living along the West Coast and sent them to detention centers for the duration of World War II. Many of the incarcerated abandoned their land and lost their property. Each one of them lost a part of their lives.
The government hired or authorized famed photographers Dorothea Lange, Ansel Adams, and others to document the expulsion—from assembling Japanese Americans at racetracks to confining them in ten camps spread across the country. Their photographs, seventy-five years after the forced removal began, provide an emotional, unflinching portrait of a nation concerned more about security than human rights. These photographs are particularly pertinent today, given debates about immigration and deportation.