Every Day at Manzanar National Historic Site

by Patricia Biggs, Park Ranger (Interpretive staff), Manzanar National Historic Site


Manzanar National Historic Site has become an intense place to work lately. Every day, at least one visitor (usually more) tells me that he/she is worried that the same racist, knee-jerk reaction discriminating against a minority group is happening again.

Every Day.

And, if you’re wondering, most of the visitors making that comment are white men. Now, I love the white men in my life, and I think they’d agree, that when U.S. White Men are concerned about racial discrimination, it’s hit a new level.

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Never Again!

The cemetery monument at Manzanar National Historic Site.
(click above to view larger image)
Photo: Gann Matsuda/Manzanar Committee

February 19, 2017 marks the 75th anniversary of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s signing of Executive Order 9066, authorizing the unjust incarceration of over 110,000 Japanese Americans in ten American concentration camps, and other confinement sites, during World War II, one of the worst violations of civil rights in our nation’s history, and most certainly, one of its darkest chapters.

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The Pain Of Unjust Incarceration Transcends Generations, Ethnicity

UCSD Nikkei Student Union member Rena Ogino (left) and
Susanne Norton La Faver, shown here during the open mic
portion of the 2015 Manzanar At Dusk program.
(click above to view larger image)
Photo: Gann Matsuda/Manzanar Committee

by Rena Ogino

The 46th Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage on April 25, 2015, was my third Pilgrimage and my first with the UCSD Nikkei Student Union as a second year student. As a shin-Nisei (second generation Japanese American, the children of recent Japanese immigrants), I initially felt like a black sheep amongst Japanese American youth that are mostly Yonsei and Gosei (fourth and fifth generation Japanese Americans, respectively). But at UCSD NSU, I was able to change my perspective on our community, learn to appreciate the differences, and identify with Japanese American youth from a different, unique, and necessary viewpoint.

None of my relatives were sent to the camps in which over 110,000 Japanese Americans and their immigrant parents were unjustly incarcerated during World War II. But I understand the fear of something similar happening again to American citizens who have goals and aspirations they have every right to fulfill. Returning to Manzanar and helping to organize the 2015 Manzanar At Dusk program reminded me of how our community is currently healing and learning from the Japanese American Incarceration. The monument, the terrible weather, and the beautifully daunting Sierra Nevada Mountains have not changed since I last went, but every time I return my experience is different due to my growing involvement with the Japanese American community.

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The Unknown Knowns: First-Day Impressions of the Manzanar Concentration Camp

Now 84 years old, long-time community and political activist Wilbur Sato was twelve years old when he was unjustly incarcerated at Manzanar in April 1942.
(click to view larger image)
Photo: Geri Ferguson/Manzanar Committee

by Wilbur Sato

My first impressions of the Manzanar concentration camp came on April 2, 1942, when we were asked by the United States Government—our own government—to report to the Los Angeles train station so we could be “evacuated” or “relocated.”

At the station, we were met by officials and soldiers with sidearms and rifles with bayonets. We were given name tags with identification numbers to be attached to our clothing, and we were then escorted by the soldiers to the train cars, their windows covered with shields.

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