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The Fresno Bee: Fresno State exhibits focus on 75th anniversary of Japanese American internment order

By Marc Benjamin

Fresno State will host a series of events over two months commemorating the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, which led to the confinement of Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans.

On Feb. 19, 1942, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the executive order that caused about 120,000 West Coast residents of Japanese descent to be moved to temporary detention centers and then internment camps.

“9066: Japanese American Voices from the Inside” opens Feb. 19 in the Henry Madden Library.

The exhibits will focus on the 20,000 Central Valley residents who were moved to relocation centers for several months before going to internment camps.

“This is particularly important now in our nation’s current circumstances to remind people that this actually happened in this generation,” said Tammy Lau, Henry Madden Library Fresno State head of special collections.

Many of those who were imprisoned have already passed away.

There will be a screening of a documentary about conscientious objectors who were imprisoned at the Tule Lake internment camp in Northern California. The screening will be at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the library. Lau said seating is limited.

Men were sent to Tule Lake when questions were raised about their loyalty to the United States and their answers didn’t meet the government’s expectations, said Fresno County Superior Court Judge Dale Ikeda. Ikeda’s parents were sent to the Fresno Fairgrounds’ assembly center before being shipped to the Jerome, Arkansas, camp.

“It’s unfortunate that because of race this group of people, loyal Americans, were under the cloud and suspicion of being spies or potential saboteurs,” Ikeda said. “No Japanese Americans were ever charged or convicted of espionage or sabotage.”

On April 7, Karen Korematsu will talk about the experiences of her father, Fred Korematsu, the named plaintiff in the lawsuit Korematsu v. United States. It sought to have the 9066 order declared unconstitutional and overturned. The Supreme Court’s 1944 decision upholding the order is widely criticized as one of the worst in the court’s history.

Exhibits at the Henry Madden Library will continue through April 9. Some will remain in place until June 2.