In 1942 photographer Dorothea Lange was hired by the U.S. government to make a photographic record of the “evacuation” and “relocation” of Japanese-Americans during World War II, which was part of an executive order signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to make parts of the country military zones. The U.S. Military wanted to publish these photos as a way of showing the world that these citizens were being treated humanely.  Her efforts created a true record of the evacuation and how American citizens of Japanese Ancestry were treated during a dark time in American history.

Military commanders that reviewed her work realized and seized them for the duration of World War II, even writing “Impounded” across some of the prints. The military seized her photographs, where the photos were quietly deposited into the National Archives. They remained largely unseen until 2006. The images captured showed Lange’s point of view on the matter, and not the whitewashed version the military was looking for at the time.

PBS produced and aired a wonderful documentary on Dorothea Lange and her experiences photographing the internment of our Japanese American citizens.


Byron, California. These field laborers of Japanese ancestry at Wartime Civil Control Administration Control Station are receiving final instructions regarding their evacuation to an Assembly center in three days.

San Francisco, California. Residents of Japanese ancestry appear for registration prior to evacuation. Evacuees were housed in War Relocation Authority centers for the duration of WWII.