Righting a Wrong:
Japanese Americans and World War II


Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, placing more than 120,000 Japanese Americans, 4,000 from Oregon, into incarceration camps.

Overcome by fear, the United States made a tragic error in 1942. This exhibit dives into what it takes to right a wrong of this magnitude and how we can ensure nothing like this occurs again.

This series explores the stories of Japanese Americans that continued life despite internment, those who enlisted to serve their country, and innovations of Japanese aircraft.

Explore the Smithsonian’s Righting a Wrong exhibit and the expansion it inspired, developed by Lydia Heins, Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum Curation & Collections Director.

Smithsonian Posters

How can we learn from the past?

In 1942, the U.S. government rounded up more than 120,000 Japanese Americans and Japanese nationals living in the United States and sent them to incarceration camps. Forty years later, community members pushed the nation to confront the wrong it had done – and to make it right.

By exploring this history and asking questions about the past, we discover interweaving stories of oppression, perseverance, and triumph that help us better understand the choices we face today.

How could this happen?

In 1942, overcome by fear that Japanese and Japanese Americans living on the West Coast were a threat to national security, the U.S. government summarily incarcerated them.

How do we decide who belongs?

Long-standing anti-Asian resentment and racial prejudice exaggerated the nation’s fear of those in the Japanese and Japanese American community.

Who holds power?

The U.S. government forced more than 120,000 Japanese Americans and resident Japanese into desolate incarceration camps.

What counts as courage?

Many in the camps declared their American-ness, and their resilience, by maintaining the routines and institutions of everyday life. Others joined or were drafted into the U.S. military.

What choices can we make?

Many resisted the injustice of their incarceration through protests and legal action.

How does democracy work?

Some forty years later, the Japanese American community pushed the nation to confront the wrong it had done, and to make it right.

How will you shape the future?

The country made a big and tragic error in 1942. Could it happen again? How will “we the people” determine the balance between the rights of individual citizens and minority groups and the need for defense of the nation?

Evergreen Expansion Posters