Japanese American Incarceration
The Camps and Coerced Labor during World War II
Politics and Culture in Modern America
Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.
336 pages, 152.00 x 229.00 x 0.00 mm, 15 illus.
- ISBN: 9780812253368
- Published: October 2021
Between 1942 and 1945, the U.S. government wrongfully imprisoned thousands of Japanese American citizens and profited from their labor. Japanese American Incarceration recasts the forced removal and incarceration of approximately 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II as a history of prison labor and exploitation.
Following Franklin Roosevelt's 1942 Executive Order 9066, which called for the exclusion of potentially dangerous groups from military zones along the West Coast, the federal government placed Japanese Americans in makeshift prisons throughout the country. In addition to working on day-to-day operations of the camps, Japanese Americans were coerced into harvesting crops, digging irrigation ditches, paving roads, and building barracks for little to no compensation and often at the behest of privately run businesses—all in the name of national security.
How did the U.S. government use incarceration to address labor demands during World War II, and how did imprisoned Japanese Americans respond to the stripping of not only their civil rights, but their labor rights as well? Using a variety of archives and collected oral histories, Japanese American Incarceration uncovers the startling answers to these questions. Stephanie D. Hinnershitz's timely study connects the government's exploitation of imprisoned Japanese Americans to the history of prison labor in the United States.
Chapter 1. The Economics of Incarceration and the Blueprint for Japanese American Labor
Chapter 2. "What Good Was My Contract?" From Free to Convict Laborers
Chapter 3. "Worse Than Prisoners": Labor Resistance in the Detention Centers and Prison Camps
Chapter 4. A Prison by Any Other Name: Labor and the Poston "Colony"
Chapter 5. Redemptive Labor: Japanese American Resettlement
"By showing us how imprisonment and prison labor shaped both the organization and implementation of Japanese American incarceration, Hinnershitz's book exposes a deeper infringement of Japanese Americans' rights than had been previously understood and compels us to revise how we teach this tragic chapter in American history."—Erika Lee, author of America for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in the United States
"Innovative and convincing, this book proves that the World War II prison camps for Japanese Americans must also be understood as labor camps, characterized by coercion and profiteering. With rigorous archival research, Stephanie Hinnershitz demonstrates that the indiscriminate incarceration—later ruled unconstitutional—was founded in racism, political opportunism, and economic exploitation, such that prisoners repeatedly exercised their rights to negotiate, file complaints, and strike against low pay and dangerous working conditions. This bold interpretation forces a thoroughgoing rethink of the American carceral state."—John Howard, author of Concentration Camps on the Home Front