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Japanese-American Internees Today


Seventy years after Japanese-Americans first arrived at the Tanforan Assembly Center in San Bruno, CA, photographs of those men, women and children — taken in 1942 by photographers such as Dorothea Lange — and taken in recent years through 2012 by photographer Paul Kitagaki Jr. — were displayed side by side at the BART system’s San Bruno Station. The station is next to Tanforan, where a World War II internment camp that held up to 8,000 people was created within a racetrack’s horse stalls.

Lange took her photos as an employee of the U.S. War Relocation Authority and was tasked with documenting the internment process in the Pacific Coast area. The exhibition of Kitagaki’s photo pairings is titled They Wore Their Best: The Japanese American Evacuation and After.

After Kitagaki found out his father’s family was one of the many photographed by Dorothea Lange on the eve of their internment, he began researching these photos in the National Archive’s U.S. War Relocation Authority collection. Later he identified other surviving people who agreed to be photographed in ways that reflect the original locations or groupings in which they appeared in 1942, when their lives were about to change for the duration of World War II.


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