Picture Source

Clara Breed Collection
Japanese American National Museum

In the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the American government decided to incarcerate over 120,000 Japanese-Americans, approximately two-thirds of whom were United States citizens.  This action was taken due to national security concerns, post-attack hysteria, and racist perceptions of Japanese-Americans.  Two months after the attack, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 which cleared the way for the eventual incarceration of the Japanese-Americans in ten large relocation centers, most of which were located in isolated areas of the American West.

The collection of letters below are from young Japanese-Americans locked up in the camp at Poston, Arizona.  They are all written to a librarian in San Diego named Clara Breed.  Breed was the children’s librarian at the San Diego Public Library from 1929-1945, and during those years she befriended many of her young Japanese-American patrons.  When they were incarcerated, she not only sent some of them letters but, as the correspondence attests, sent them many books and supplies as well.  What we have below is a collection of letters from these young Japanese-Americans to Clara Breed.  –Prof. Robert Griswold

Please note: the links in these kits go to either a source on the web or an OU Libraries’ resource, requiring you to login with your OUNetID (4×4). The links open in a new window/tab. Report link problems to lscrivener@ou.edu.

Primary Sources: Original Documents from the Time

“Letters to Clara Breed,” 1942-1943. Clara Breed Collection. Japanese American National Museum. (Via the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.)

  1. Tetsuzo Hirasaki, May 26, 1942
  2. Katherine Tasaki, July 24, 1942
  3. Louise Ogawa, August 27, 1942
  4. Fusa Tsumagari, September 8, 1942
  5. Margaret and Florence Ishino, September 15, 1942
  6. Yaeko Hirasaki, September 16, 1942
  7. Louise Ogawa, September 16, 1942
  8. Louise Ogawa, September 27, 1942
  9. Margaret Ishino, September 28, 1942
  10. Tetsuzo Hirasaki, October 3, 1942
  11. Fusa Tsumagari, October 9, 1942
  12. Katherine Tasaki, October 12, 1942
  13. Louise Ogawa, October 20, 1942
  14. Louise Ogawa, November 11, 1942
  15. Tetsuzo Hirasaki, November 16, 1942
  16. Fusa Tsumagari, November 23, 1942
  17. Tetsuzo Hirasaki, December 1, 1942
  18. Margaret and Florence Ishino, December 10, 1942
  19. Hisako Watanabe, December 25, 1942
  20. Jack Watanabe, December 28, 1942
  21. Louise Ogawa, January 27, 1943
  22. Hisako and Jack Watanabe, February 10, 1943
  23. Margaret Arakawa, March 3, 1943
  24. Fusa Tsumagari, May 3, 1943
  25. Louise Ogawa, May 14, 1943
  26. Fusa Tsumagari, May 19, 1943
  27. Louise Ogawa, June 19, 1943
  28. Fusa Tsumagari, June 29, 1943
  29. Fusa Tsumagari, July 21, 1943
  30. Louise Ogawa, August 5, 1943
  31. Louise Ogawa, August 17, 1943
  32. Louise Ogawa, September 14, 1943
  33. Hisako Watanabe, October 5, 1943
  34. Louise Ogawa, December 27, 1943

Secondary Sources: What Historians Have Written

Bearden, Russell. “Life Inside Arkansas’s Japanese-American Relocation Centers.” The Arkansas Historical Quarterly 48, no. 2 (1989): 169–96.

Chiang, Connie Y. “Imprisoned Nature: Toward an Environmental History of the World War II Japanese American Incarceration.” Environmental History 15, no. 2 (2010): 236–67.

Fujita-Rony, Thomas. “Arizona and Japanese American History: The World War II Colorado River Relocation Center.” Journal of the Southwest 47, no. 2 (2005): 209–32.

Lillquist, Karl. “Farming the Desert: Agriculture in the World War II-Era Japanese-American Relocation Centers.” Agricultural History 84, no. 1 (2010): 74–104.

Muller, Eric L. “A Penny for Their Thoughts: Draft Resistance at the Poston Relocation Center.” Law and Contemporary Problems 68, no. 2 (2005): 119–57.

Sims, Robert C. “‘A Fearless, Patriotic, Clean-Cut Stand’ Idaho’s Governor Clark and Japanese-American Relocation in World War II.” The Pacific Northwest Quarterly 70, no. 2 (1979): 75–81.