Manzanar NHS At 25 Years Old: More Relevant Now Than Ever Before

The following is an expanded version of a story that will appear in the printed program for the 48th Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage, April 29, 2017.


The east side of the Visitor Center at Manzanar National Historic Site.
(click above to view larger image)
Photo: Gann Matsuda/Manzanar Committee

LOS ANGELES — A little over 25 years ago, after decades of hard work, Japanese American community activists, along with allies in California’s Owens Valley, celebrated a victory when the site of the Manzanar concentration camp, located along U.S. Highway 395 between the towns of Lone Pine and Independence, was designated as a National Historic Site on March 3, 1992, by an act of Congress.

It took twelve more years for the Manzanar National Historic Site to become a fully operational unit of the National Park Service, with its Visitor Center opening in April 2004. Since then, several physical elements of the World War II concentration camp have been reconstructed, additional exhibits continue to be developed, gardens are being excavated and rehabilitated, archaeological digs are uncovering more and more artifacts, and oral histories are being collected.

“It’s amazing,” said Manzanar Committee Co-Chair Bruce Embrey. “It took 23 years to be designated as a National Historic Site. Then, it took twelve more years to build the Visitor Center and have a grand opening in 2004. It’s an amazing accomplishment.”

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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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What’s New At Manzanar NHS: Classroom Exhibit Is Taking Shape

Lou Frizzel, shown here with his students, taught music in Manzanar’s school system during World War II.
Photo courtesy National Park Service

INDEPENDENCE, CA — February 19, 2017 will mark the 75th Anniversary of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s signing of Executive Order 9066, which resulted in the unjust incarceration of more than 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry, more than two-thirds native-born American citizens, into ten American concentration camps during World War II.

Coincidentally, just a few weeks later, Manzanar National Historic Site will mark its 25th Anniversary, having been declared a National Historic Site on March 3, 1992.

Over the last 25 years, the National Park Service has worked to preserve, protect and interpret the site so that visitors can learn about what happened at Manzanar, dating back to its indigenous inhabitants, the Owens Valley Paiute, through the World War II era, when a total of 11,070 people were incarcerated at Manzanar, which, almost overnight, became the biggest city between Los Angeles and Reno on Highways 14 and 395, as you head north from the San Fernando Valley.

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