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Japanese American Internment - Research Guide

Overview: Finding Primary Sources

Primary sources can be found in a variety of library tools:

For specific search strategies, see the Library's Guide to Finding Historical Primary Sources

Learn more about your topic in advance:

  • names of relevant individuals and organizations
  • dates of events
  • places
  • what terminology was used at the time by participants and observers? (ex:  negro or colored instead of african american)

Use the bibliographies of secondary sources and reference sources to find citations to specific primary sources; search UC library Search to locate them on campus, or ask for assistance at the Library.

Online primary sources: Japanese American Internment


Bancroft Library Guide to Japanese American Internment, Relocation and Resettlement Records

Japanese American Relocation Digital Archives (multiple California libraries and museums)

UC Berkeley Oral History Center:  Japanese American Confinement Sites:  oral histories (scroll to the bottom)

UC Berkeley Oral History Center:  Japanese American Intergenerational Narratives:  oral histories

     Berkeley Remix:  podcast "From Generation to Generation’: The Legacy of Japanese American Incarceration"

National Archives:  Japanese American Relocation and Internment

Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco (see:  San Francisco - Japanese)

   and see:  San Francisco News coverage

Library of Congress -  Ansel Adam's photographs of  Manzanar

Library of Congress - primary source set and Teacher's Guide

Japanese American National Museum:  Museum Collections Online

Japanese American Museum of San Jose:  Manabu Oral History Project (short oral histories)

Densho Digital Repository:  Browse Collections

California State University Japanese American Digitization Project

Smithsonian Museum of American History:  A More Perfect Union - browse photos of their collections

Japantown Atlas - Drawing from historic maps, business directories, and photos, we show a variety of Japantowns as they existed in 1940.

Clara Breed Letters - Includes over 300 letters and cards received by Breed from Japanese American children and young adults during their World War II incarceration.


Library databases:

Video and Art: Japanese American Internment

How can I tell if something is a primary source?

See the Books and Media tab for search examples.

How can you tell if something is a primary source by looking at UC Library Search?  Sometimes you can't, but here are some ideas:

  • was it created by a person or organization involved with the events?  (ex:  Fred Korematsu, Japanese American Citizens League)
  • was it created during the time period of the events?  (ex:  1939-1945) - note that not all primary sources were created during the time period - some, like interviews and memoirs, were created later
  • is the item the type of material that has been created by participants in the event - specialized newspapers, memoirs, interviews, diaries, correspondence, etc.?
  • is the item the type of material that has been created by witnesses of the event - mainstream newspapers and magazine articles, for example?

If you're not sure, ask for assistance!

Sample Searches - Finding Historical Newspaper Articles

Sample searches in Historical Newspapers (ProQuest): (mostly primary sources)

1.   Japanese american* internment

2.   advanced search

Remember to use the terminology of the time period!

japanese  (anywhere)
evacuation (anywhere)
alien* (anywhere)

publication date:  specific date range > 1/1/1942   12/31/1945

Note:  read the help screens before trying to print!

Sample Searches in Readers Guide (primary sources - major American magazine articles)

1.   Japanese   (keywords)
      internment  (keywords)

2.   Japanese Americans evacuation  (subject)

limit by date:  from year 1942  to year  1945

click on UC e-links to find library location


Also try searching specific names and events:  General DeWitt; Executive Order 9066, Civilian Exclusion Order 346, etc.!