Japanese American Incarceration During WWII: Write to Me Plot

Japanese American Incarceration During WWII:  Write to Me Plot
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Japanese American Incarceration in WWII

Japanese American Incarceration in WWII

By Liane Hicks

During World War II, the United States government forcibly imprisoned more than 120,000 Japanese Americans simply for being of Japanese descent. This lesson plan focuses on this often overlooked chapter of U.S. history when teaching about World War II in the classroom. It uses books to help students learn more about the time period and the effects of the incarceration, and helps facilitate discussions about prejudice and injustice.

Japanese American Incarceration in WWII

Storyboard Description

The book, Write to Me by Cynthia Grady, tells the true story of a San Diego, California librarian, Clara Breed and the Japanese American families that she advocated for during their incarceration during World War II. It is a compelling look at the travesty of justice that was committed by the United States government during WWII against Japanese Americans. Students can feel empathy for the young children writing letters to Miss Breed about their experiences while studying the beautiful illustrations and learning about this often forgotten and important chapter in U.S. history.

Storyboard Text

  • WRITE TO ME by Cynthia Grady
  • Miss Clara BreedSan Diego Public Library
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  • Write to Me is the true story of Clara Breed, a beloved librarian in San Diego California and the Japanese American children and their families unjustly incarcerated during World War II.
  • Dear Miss Breed, Thank you for the books! The postman inspected the package but said the books were ok. Love, Louise
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  • Dear Miss Breed, We live in a horse stable and there is only one open shower for everyone. It is so hot, 120 degrees in the shade.
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  • The students who came to the library loved to hear Miss Breed’s stories. Katherine Tasaki came to return her books. She told Miss Breed that she would have to leave soon. The U.S. government was forcing people of Japanese heritage from their homes and into prison camps. Miss Breed hugged Katherine, gave her a pre-stamped postcard, and said, "Write to us! We'll want to know where you are."
  • Miss Breed went to the train station where Japanese American families were being forced to move to the prison camps and couldn't believe her eyes! There were hundreds of families. She handed out more stamped and addressed postcards to the children. "Write to me if you need anything!"
  • Dear Miss Breed,Thank you ever so much for everything. Much love, Katherine
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  • Families were sent to the large prisons in California and Arizona. Miss Breed received postcards from the children and in sent them books and encouragement. Life in the prisons was very hard. There were food shortages, few supplies, sicknesses, and no freedom. Miss Breed wrote articles advocating for the families and sent as much help as she could.
  • Dear Miss Breed, Many people are sick with mumps and measles. The food shortages have made life even more difficult.
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  • Dear Miss Breed, I miss home. When will be allowed to leave this place?
  • Dear Miss Breed, thank you so much for the books, they make our long days less lonesome.
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  • Finally the war ended and Japanese Americans were released from the prison camps. Many had nowhere to go. Their homes, livelihoods, shops, businesses, and farms were all gone and they faced much racism. Some moved away to try to start fresh, others moved back to their old neighborhoods to try and rebuild.
  • About 120,000 Japanese Americans were imprisoned at the hands of the U.S. government. They lost their homes, livelihoods, and freedom for years. The U.S. Government apologized over 40 years later. Miss Breed and Katherine remained friends. Clara Breed was honored as a guest as a reunion of Japanese Americans who had been imprisoned in 1991.
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