Chicago’s New Website Tells Japanese-American Internment Stories

Japanese Americans forced to resettle in Chicago after internment tell their stories on a new interactive website, Uprooted.

Why is this important: The site offers a compelling choose-your-own adventure-style curriculum for teachers in Illinois who will be teaching local Asian American history starting this fall. under a new law.

State of play: The Uprooted project was led by the Japanese American Service Committee of Chicago and the Japanese American Historical Society.

  • We recently spoke to multimedia journalist Katherine Nagasawa, who developed the program and site.

Q: How did you decide to work on this project?

A: “As a fourth-generation Japanese-American whose grandparents were incarcerated, it was a way for me to process and make sense of my own family history. To me, it felt urgent to capture this story while we still have living survivors to provide first-hand accounts.”

Q: What’s one of the most interesting things you’ve learned?

A: “How much the post-incarceration period has shaped the Japanese-American community. During the war years, the government allowed Japanese Americans to leave the camps on the condition that they disperse geographically away from the West Coast and integrate into middle-class white society.

  • “That’s why Chicago’s postwar Japanese-American population grew from several hundred to 20,000 in the space of a few years. The pressure to assimilate also caused many Japanese Americans to distancing oneself from the Japanese language, culture and community.”

Q: What do you hope students will get out of it?

A: “I hope Uprooted can give this story personality and color by centering the individual stories of people whose childhoods have been disrupted by incarceration and resettlement.”

Editor’s note: Monica previously worked with Katherine at WBEZ.

About Sandra A. Powell

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