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Gaman: FDR and the Japanese American Internment Camps
February 19, 2010

Gaman image

Artist unidentified (Interned at Heart Mountain, Wyoming), Camp Scene, wood, paint, Collection of the Japanese American Museum of San José. From The Art of Gaman by Delphine Hirasuna, ©2005, Ten Speed Press. Terry Heffernan photo.

On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which led to the creation of internment camps for Japanese Americans during World War II. The order—a direct result of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor the previous December, which killed thousands of Americans—placed 120,000 Japanese Americans in internment camps. These included three generations: issei (immigrants born in Japan), nisei (first generation, born American), and sansei (the children of nisei). The entire Japanese population living on the West Coast was affected. When relocating, families could take from their homes only what they could carry, leaving behind all that they had built in the United States.

On March 5, the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Renwick Gallery will open the exhibition, The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese Internment Camps, 1942–1946. The Japanese word gaman (pronounced gah-mon) is defined as "the ability to endure the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity." The exhibition will display more than 120 items created in the internment camps, ranging from furniture made from scrap lumber to baskets made from twine.

It’s hard to fathom the world as it was more than sixty years ago. The Renwick exhibition shows examples of the resilient and creative human spirit during a time of great limitation and sacrifice.

Posted by Howard on February 19, 2010 in American Art Here


You've got a few errors here:

They weren't all Japanese-Americans. There were first-generation Japanese, and they were enemy aliens due to their country attacking ours. If they were Americans as you say, than so is every single person living in the US now regardless of citizenship.

They were interned, but evacuated.

"only what they could carry" - No, they shipped all kinds of things to the centers.

You could study a lot more on historical and political correctness on this topic.

Thanks for your comments Wes. I talked with the exhibition's curator about your points. You are correct that not all who were interned in the camps were Japanese Americans–some were immigrants, and some were Caucasians who were married to Japanese Americans and chose to be with their spouses. Issei (immigrants born in Japan) could not become naturalized citizens after a 1922 Supreme Court ruling that excluded Asians from citizenship. In 1924, the U.S. cut off all immigration from Japan, so all of the issei had been in the country for at least 18 years.

As for what Japanese Americans could bring with them to the camps, the “exclusion order” stated:

The Following Instructions Must Be Observed: All items carried will be securely packaged, tied and plainly marked with the name of the owner and numbered in accordance with instructions received at the Civil Control Station. The size and number of packages is limited to that which can be carried by the individual or family group.

The United States Government through its agencies will provide for the storage at the sole risk of the owner of the more substantial household items, such as iceboxes, washing machines, pianos, and other heavy furniture. Cooking utensils and other small items will be accepted if crated, packed and plainly marked with the name and address of the owner. Only one name and address will be used by a given family.

"The Art of Gaman" focuses on the art and crafts, which were created under difficult circumstances. The historic context is important to understanding these objects. The exhibition celebrates the perseverance of individuals in the camps and the strong sense of community that was encouraged by making these beautiful objects.

Its simply amazing how different we were as a country only several decades ago. I've watch the Pearl Harbor movie several times and was astonished with the destruction the Japanese caused on Pearl Harbor. it was absolutely horrible.

I'm sure there is more to be told about these internment camps. It would be interesting to learn more about how they were treated while being held captive. This is why our history is so important; it prevents us from repeating it again. Great informative post.

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