Serving as a testament of the experience of Japanese-Americans on the home front during World War II, Japanese-American Internment Camp Newspapers is a digitised archive containing hundreds of issues of the newspapers produced by Japanese-American internees during their imprisonment in camps spanning the Western territories of the continental United States. The newspapers are a powerful and moving historical documents that bear witness to the suffering of men, women, and children who were unfairly imprisoned solely on the basis of perceived disloyalty stemming from racial prejudice.
The site is easy to navigate and has a clean user interface that features four tabs that provide an overview of the collection, items from the collection itself, additional resources including a timeline of major events involving Japanese-American internment as well as essays on the journalists and newspapers, and a list of the newspaper titles contained in the collection. The front page provides a clear and concise overview of the collection, providing some insight into the newspapers themselves as well as laying out the background and context for the internment of Japanese-Americans during the war. In terms of additional resources, the site also contains a timeline detailing major events leading up to internment as well as its aftermath. Within the collection itself, there are twenty-nine newspapers—though the collection lists thirty-three, a few are simply the same newspaper but with either a slightly different name or was published in different years—from camps in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah.
The newspapers have been digitised as high-resolution images—as opposed to full-text—but are fully keyword searchable through an advanced search engine that can also be limited by state/province, county, city, newspaper, and date. As with most texts that have been scanned with optical character recognition technology, not all words have been picked up accurately, which means that the results of keyword searching may not always return an accurate representation. This is also compounded by the fact that the newspapers contain both English and Japanese text, with some issues being completely handwritten. Outside of keyword searching, visitors can also find newspapers by browsing the full collection, which is divided by newspaper title and further subdivided into issues through a calendar showing when particular issues were published. All the newspaper issues available online are viewable on the website or can also be downloaded as PDFs for your convenience.
Within their pages, the newspapers contain a record of community events, provide administrative information about the camps and internment, general news about the community and the world beyond the wire fence, editorials, and opinion pieces. Educators will find plenty of material to work with and can use the newspapers as primary sources in and of themselves, to be analysed as a representation of the lives of a marginalised minority group at a particular moment in time or combined with other resources to produce a broader understanding of the Asian-American experience over time. Another productive use of the archive might be to draw out the links between the internment of Japanese-American civilians with the conduct of Japanese-American soldiers in units like the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
As a record of Japanese-American efforts to adapt to the difficult circumstances of being suspected as enemy agents, being forcibly relocated from their homes, and being placed under military custody, the Library of Congress’ collection of Japanese-American Internment Camp Newspapers is a rich, important archive that keeps the stories of the community and their experiences alive. It serves as an object lesson on the resilience of the human spirit and serves as a potent reminder of the detrimental impacts of racial prejudice on multicultural societies in extraordinary times.