Farewell to Manzanar: Japanese Internment Camps During World War II


In 1886, after the arrival of Commodore Perry, the Japanese government lifted its ban on emigration and allowed its citizens to move to other countries. In the years after that, however, the United States made it more difficult for Japanese to immigrate to America. In 1911, the United States Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization declared that only people descended from whites and African Americans could become citizens. The United States Supreme Court upheld this ban in 1922 in the court case Ozawa v. US (for an extended list of Supreme Court cases related to immigration, see History Now's issue on immigration). By 1913, Japanese Americans were not allowed to own land in California. After Pearl Harbor was bombed and the United States entered World War II, the FBI declared all Japanese Americans, German Americans, and Italian Americans to be "dangerous enemy aliens." The government arrested and detained people on a daily basis. By February 1942, President Roosevelt released Executive Order 9066, which allowed the government to legally detain American citizens of Japanese, Italian, and German origin.

The book Farewell to Manzanar: A True Story of Japanese American Experience During and After the World War II by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston is the story of one family's journey to the internment camp of Manzanar. The story of the internees is seen vividly through the eyes of a child, a father, and a mother. It graphically depicts the life of one family beginning at the formation of the camp, through three years at the camp, and afterward.

Essential Question

Citizens show allegiance to their country, but is their country required to do the same?

Activity One

Socratic seminar based on the book Farewell to Manzanar. (Some of the questions can be used whether the book was read or not.)


Students will engage in a Socratic seminar. Through questioning they will express their opinions about the book and further explore some of its themes. A Socratic seminar allows students to teach each other as they answer questions and listen to others’ opinions. After the Socratic seminar is completed, the students will write a Haiku poem. A Haiku is a traditional Japanese poem, which is symbolic of the cultural importance in the text. Students will create a simple Haiku that will describe the living conditions in Manzanar.



Teacher: If you have not conducted a Socratic seminar, view the attached PowerPoint.

  1. Make sure that the students have read the text, or read sufficient documents relating to the camps.
  2. Review or give copies of the questions to the students ahead of time, so they have time to find evidentiary support for their answers.
  3. Review the rubric for participation and scoring so students know and understand the expectations.
  4. Ensure that students bring the text with them, as they will be referring to it.
  5. Put the desks in a circle so that all students are facing one another.
  6. Explain to students what they will be doing.
  7. Using the question set, start with a question for all students to answer and go around the room.  This will make students feel more comfortable and set the wheels in motion.
  8. Continue with the question set. Allow time for a number of students to express their views and opinions.
  9. Feel free at any time to add additional questions based on the information and answers provided by the students.


Students will write a haiku reflecting on life in the internment camps. Students can base their poem on Farewell to Manzanar or on the pictures and other primary documents relating to Manzanar. (Student directions attached.)

Activity Two

Students will write and produce a radio broadcast/podcast about the internment of Japanese Americans, Italian Americans, or German Americans afterPearl Harbor.


  • Directions on how to podcast (if needed), Macworld
  • FDR’s Fireside Chats, Miller Center, University of Virginia
  • Paper
  • Writing instrument
  • Computer or tape recorder
  • Library/Internet access to look for primary documents relating to their group of Americans
  • Primary documents and articles relating to Japanese Americans, Italian Americans, and German Americans (below)


Most students have learned that President Franklin D. Roosevelt discussed the war in radio broadcasts called fireside chats. Now it is time for the students to create a similar broadcast. Students will research primary documents about the internment of the Japanese Americans, as well as of German and Italian Americans. Then students will compose a script for their broadcast, remembering that this is audio only (and not visual) and they will have to be descriptive in their writing. Students will record and play their broadcast for their classmates. Options should be available to make this either on a tape recorder or computer or as a podcast.


  1. Start the class by reviewing or having the students review FDR’s fireside chats. Remind students that these were broadcast over radio, and look specifically at FDR's word choice. Preferably choose one from World War II.
  2. Have students list FDR's descriptive words, phrases, and figurative language.
  3. List some of the words on the board as a reminder to students.
  4. Make sure that the students know that, although there were a larger number of Japanese Americans being interred, there were also Italian Americans and German Americans in internment camps.
  5. Students can use the suggested websites to find information regarding internment or look on the Internet themselves for additional information.
  6. Have students work as a group or individually to write a radio news broadcast of the internment.
  7. Their job is to make sure that they get the information to the general public about why these people are interred, what the camps were like, and how this can happen to an American citizen.
  8. Students may choose to write the broadcast as a speech (like FDR) or as a script to be read by a number of people (particularly if they want to "interview" someone and use their words about the camps and treatment).
  9. Students can create a podcast (if the school has the capability), or simply tape record the broadcast, then play it for the class. Try to put it on tape if possible, because if the students read it aloud in class, it will lose some of the effect.

Extra: If you are utilizing technology to create this broadcast, for extra credit, have the students research songs from 1941 and 1942 and play a piece of a song at some point in the broadcast.

Useful Websites and Primary Documents


Students will compose a four-paragraph essay about the internment of American citizens from the viewpoint of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Essay Prompts

  1. Farewell to Manzanar and the multitude of primary documents about the U.S. internment camps show an often forgotten part of American history.
  2. Think about the zeitgeist and national security issues.
  3. Explain why President Roosevelt chose to detain American citizens.