Impounded: Dorothea Lange and the Censored Images of Japanese American Internment

Overview

"In the devastating aftermath of December 7, 1941, with America reeling from imperial Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, political leaders and media outlets throughout the country turned their anger inward, branding all Americans of Japanese ancestry as dangerous potential spies and saboteurs. Government, military, and journalistic spokesmen ratcheted up a racist fever against Japanese Americans." "Dorothea Lange (1895-1965), the noted documentary photographer, was one of a handful of white people impelled to speak out. Already a prominent
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Overview

"In the devastating aftermath of December 7, 1941, with America reeling from imperial Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, political leaders and media outlets throughout the country turned their anger inward, branding all Americans of Japanese ancestry as dangerous potential spies and saboteurs. Government, military, and journalistic spokesmen ratcheted up a racist fever against Japanese Americans." "Dorothea Lange (1895-1965), the noted documentary photographer, was one of a handful of white people impelled to speak out. Already a prominent photographer in the employ of the WPA, she was hired by the U.S. War Relocation Authority to photograph the process of the imprisonment of 110,000 Japanese Americans. Once she had secured her role as witness, she devoted herself to the project, working seven days a week throughout the first half of 1942." Impounded tells the historic story of internment from the perspective of the internees. There were no charges or even allegations of disloyalty to the United States against the internees, of whom two-thirds were American citizens. Nevertheless they were detained without trial or even hearings, incarcerated in desolate locations, and housed in rough, cramped barracks surrounded by barbed wire.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
When America's War Relocation Authority hired Dorothea Lange to photograph the internment of Japanese-Americans in 1942, they put a few restrictions on her work. Barbed wire, watchtowers and armed soldiers were off limits, they declared. And no pictures of resistance, either. They wanted the roundup and sequestering of Japanese-Americans documented-but not too well. Working within these limits, Lange, who is best known for her photographs of migrant farmers during the Depression, nonetheless produced images whose content so opposed the federal objective of demonizing Japanese-Americans that the vast majority of the photographs were suppressed throughout WWII (97% of them have never been published at all). Editors Gordon and Okihiro set this first collection of Lange's internment work within technical, cultural and historical contexts. Gordon (The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction) discusses Lange's professional methods and the formation of her "democratic-populist" beliefs. Okihiro (Whispered Silences: Japanese Americans and World War II) traces the history of prejudice against Japanese Americans, with emphasis on internees' firsthand accounts. But the bulk of the book is given over to Lange's photographs. Several of these are as powerful as her most stirring work, and the final image-of a grandfather in the desolate Manzanar Center looking down in anguish at the grandson between his knees-is worth the price of the book alone. 104 photos, 2 maps. (Nov.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
The Sunday Times [London]
“In these days of fear of the terrorist 'other', reading this measured, intelligent introduction to a time that is all-too possible to imagine recurring, and looking at Lange's photos... may be one of the most useful things one can do this Christmas.”
The Independent [UK]
“[The] images show Americans of Japanese extraction being relocated to 'assembly centers', labeled and processed like cattle and closeted away in dismal shacks for the duration of the war... No wonder her pictures were never used and disappeared for half a century.”
Amateur Photographer
“Through her discerning and sensitive eye, Lange's observations of the situation were too real and too critical for the government, and were consequently confiscated.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393060737
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/6/2006
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 7.40 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Linda Gordon is the Florence Kelley Professor of History at New York University. She is the author of numerous books including Dorothea Lange and Impounded, and won the Bancroft Prize for The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction. She lives in New York.

Gary Y. Okihiro is the author of Whispered Silences: Japanese Americans and World War II and Common Ground: Reimagining American History. He is a professor at Columbia University and lives in New York City.

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Table of Contents

Dorothea Lange photographs the Japanese American internment 5
An American story 47
Photographs
Ch. 1 Before the evacuation 85
Ch. 2 The roundup 111
Ch. 3 At the assembly centers 133
Ch. 4 Manzanar 161
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