Conscience and the Constitution

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Download our Teachers Guide as a 13-page PDF file.

For homework help, please see our PBS Online site at for online documents or to send a question or comment via the PBS Talkback page. 

Densho logoFor an excellent introduction and overview of the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans, go to Densho: The Japanese American Legacy Project. Densho's mission is to preserve the testimonies of Japanese Americans who were unjustly incarcerated during World War II before their memories are extinguished. They offer irreplaceable firsthand accounts, coupled with historical images and teacher resources, to explore principles of democracy and promote equal justice for all.

Also see the site created by one of our funders, the federal Civil Liberties Public Education Fund, which has a special Educational Resources page just for you.

cover art for Born in the USAWriter and scholar Frank Chin is offeriing you, the readers of this site, a series of scripts that boldly bring to life issues of Japanese American art and literature, all tied tightly around the questions of loyalty, betrayal and resistance in WW2. He says the scripts can be read or performed in class, and used in conjunction with his recent compilation of oral history, research and original insight, Born in the USA. He has sent three scripts so far. You can download them here as Adobe Acrobat files [requires free Adobe Reader] and print them out just as they came out of his Powerbook. He says the first script serves as an introduction to the series. They are framed as proposals for a conference at the Japanese American National Museum and suggest actors that might be used for the readings; you can read them for yourself and pick out anything you find useful:

A landmark work I would recommend is Michi Weglyn's Years of Infamy, reprinted in paper by the University of Washington Press and available through any on-line bookseller.  Other books would include the Report of the U.S. Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, PERSONAL JUSTICE DENIED, also published by the U.W. Press, and any of the works of Professor Roger Daniels.

Now, if you want to know more about our story, the largest organized resistance to wartime incarceration, read Frank Chin's Born in the USA, noted above, or Eric Muller's Free to Die for Their Country:The Story of the Japanese American Draft Resisters in World War II (University of Chicago Press). I guarantee he will tell you two amazing stories you've never heard before about the trials of the resisters from Tule Lake and Minidoka.

Here also is a useful overview of the resisters story with links to other pages inside this site:

Lesson Plan: "The 1944 Nisei Draft at Heart Mountain, Wyoming: Its Relationship to the Historical Representation of the World War II Japanese American Evacuation"
by Professor Art Hansen, California State University, Fullerton

This teaching unit, in the words of its creator, "induces an appreciation for how the past as a whole is constructed, communicated, and used as a source of identity and empowerment." It is designed to explore "the problematic nature of such concepts as loyalty, patriotism, and heroism," by studying the roles played at Heart Mountain in 1944 by three men -- Frank Emi, Ben Kuroki, and James Omura – each of whom are featured in our television documentary, Conscience and the Constitution.

"Loyalty... is a Covenant": Japanese American Internees and the Selective Service Act
by Eric Bittner
Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives, Fall 1991

"Ben Wakaye: A True American"
by Amy Fujimoto


Updated: November 26, 2004

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