Manzanar Historic Site in California
By Contested Histories Initiative •
During World War II, the U.S. Government incarcerated thousands of Japanese Americans in so-called War Relocation Centres around the country. One of them was the Manzanar Relocation Center, which at its peak, housed around 11,000 detainees. Incarcerated behind barbed wire and guard towers, Japanese American families lost their freedom which disrupted family dynamics and led to the 1942 Manzanar Riots. After Manzanar closed in November 1945, Japanese Americans lived with deep trauma, a sense of shame, and an unwillingness to tell their stories. Decades later, incarceration survivors and descendants led the effort to preserve Manzanar as a site for healing and learning. This case analyses the controversies around the memorialisation of this part of American history that was overlooked for decades.