Densho Keeps JA Incarceration Story Alive

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SEATTLE — “The most important thing we can do for the Japanese American community is to keep its stories alive, especially from the period during World War II when Japanese Americans were unjustly incarcerated” said Tom Ikeda, Densho executive director, as he announced the award of two federal grants to Densho. “Communities that remember and share their past, especially the stories about surviving against injustice, are the communities that will thrive in the future.”

Densho has been awarded grants totaling $494,403 from the Department of the Interior, National Park Service (NPS), through the Japanese American Confinement Sites (JACS) grant program. The NPS distributed 10 JACS grants totaling $1.4 million to help preserve and interpret the World War II confinement sites of Japanese Americans.

“Congratulations to Densho for the National Park Service grants they were awarded,” said Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.). “The work they do not only preserves the memory of past injustices, but also helps us work towards a future of equality. Knowing our past reminds us to stay vigilant in the fight for justice now, and Densho is both repairing and rebuilding at once. The Japanese American community and our country are lucky to have an organization doing this important work.”

Densho’s first grant of $300,000 will fund work to create a massive online repository of video oral histories and historic photographs, documents, and newspapers from Densho’s existing holdings and from partnering organizations including the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii in Honolulu, the Oregon Nikkei Endowment in Portland, the Heart Mountain Wyoming Memorial Foundation in Cody, and the Japanese American Museum of San Jose. When completed in 2015, the project will improve the search features of the Densho Archive and increase the size of the archive to over 100,000 items.

Densho’s second grant of $194,403 will fund work to create an online course for classroom teachers to learn how to find and explore the rich primary sources in the online Densho Archive. This course will reach thousands of teachers across the country and in international and military schools overseas. Content for the course will be refined from Densho’s current “Teach the Teachers” program, which is currently training over 600 teachers in six states.

The enhanced Densho Archive and teacher course will be tightly integrated with the Densho Encyclopedia, another project funded by the JACS program. Over 90 scholars, historians, and writers are creating this authoritative, rigorously edited and organized online resource, which will provide context about the incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans, two-thirds of them American citizens, following Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.

Congress established the JACS Grants program in 2006 and authorized up to $38 million in grants. The goal of the program is to teach present and future generations about the injustice of the World War II confinement history and inspire a commitment to equal justice under the law.  Successful proposals are chosen through a competitive process that requires applicants to match the grant award with $1 in non-federal funds or “in-kind” contributions for every $2 they receive in federal money.

Densho is an award-winning nonprofit organization located in Seattle.  Established in 1996, it preserves the legacy of Japanese Americans who were incarcerated during World War II before their memories are extinguished. Using digital technology, Densho offers an oral history program to record first-hand accounts; an online collection of images, documents, newspapers, and video; and education resources and training to explore principles of democracy and promote equal justice for all.

For more information, visit www.densho.org. For questions regarding the JACS grant program, contact Program Manager Kara Miyagishima at (303) 969-2885.

 

An image from Densho’s website.

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