Classroom Resources

Educators who want to use UPROOTED in their classrooms have several options available to them. The three family stories have been designed as solo experiences for a user to explore individually. Each story takes approximately 40 minutes to fully complete, which should allow most educators to assign one story per class period. Depending on how much class time is available, teachers can (1) choose one story to assign the whole class, (2) divide the students between the three stories, or (3) assign all three.

The resources below are intended to supplement Kazuo Ideno’s web story. The discussion questions can be used as a personal reflection assignment or for small group discussion. Teachers can pick and choose which supplemental readings and viewings they would like students to explore in more detail.

Discussion questions:

  • Chapter 1: Why did the FBI arrest Kaz's dad?
  • Chapter 2: Where do you think the sense of guilt and shame Kaz felt came from?
  • Chapter 3: How did Kaz try to prove he was an American? What does being “American” mean to you?
  • Chapter 4: How are Kaz and Karen’s relationship with their Japanese American identities similar? How are they different?
  • Chapter 5: How are stereotypes harmful? What can we learn from Ryan about how to combat them?

Supplemental materials: The WRA resettlement project

Soon after the War Relocation Authority (WRA) opened the ten Japanese American concentration camps, government officials realized that keeping 120,000 people locked up was expensive, and the country needed workers who could fill the void created by the war effort. WRA Director Dillon Myer also saw a unique opportunity to redistribute Japanese Americans across the country and assimilate them into mainstream white American society.

By late 1942, the WRA began developing a leave clearance program to resettle Japanese Americans back into society. As part of the program, the WRA issued a controversial “Loyalty questionnaire” that sought to separate “loyal” from “disloyal” Japanese Americans. Those deemed “loyal” were approved to resettle to cities outside of the West Coast, which was closed to Japanese Americans.

In January of 1943, the WRA established its first regional field office in Chicago. The agency used promotional brochures and films to entice incarcerees to resettle in the Midwest. They told the resettlers they were community “ambassadors” and required them to participate in leave clearance interviews that underscored the WRA’s assimilation goals.

In an August 1943 address, WRA Director Dillon Meyer spoke of his vision for Japanese American assimilation: “If the leave program is successful, a large number of the evacuees will re-establish themselves in other parts of the country, where they can be absorbed readily. It is hoped that the bulk of the relocated people will stay where they strike root.”

In the years during and after the war, more Japanese Americans resettled to Chicago than any other city. The WRA partnered with local religious and social service agencies to hold classes that encouraged relocated Japanese Americans to avoid congregating in ethnic communities or groups, to shun the speaking of Japanese, and to assimilate to mainstream white American culture. In doing so, Myer and the WRA placed the blame for anti-Japanese sentiment on the existence of pre-war Japanese American enclaves like Japantown — instead of on war hysteria or anti-Japanese racism.

“The Way Ahead”- This 15-minute-long WRA documentary was shown to incarcerated Japanese Americans to promote resettlement to the Midwest. It profiles Japanese Americans working in farms in Illinois and factories in Chicago, and also talks about finding housing and adjusting to social life outside of camp.

Discussion questions:

  • Think about who created this film and who the intended audience was. How do you think this influenced the overall tone of the film?
  • What incentive do you think the U.S. government might have had for painting the resettlement process as easy and desirable? How do you think the actual experience was similar or different?
  • How do the visuals in the film communicate what resettled life should look like?
  • A euphemism is a polite or neutral expression used in place of words or phrases that might otherwise be considered harsh or unpleasant. How does euphemistic language play a role in the film? What language might be more accurate in describing what’s happening?
  • If you were a Japanese American being held in an incarceration camp, would you trust the U.S. government to provide you with accurate information? Why or why not?

WRA Leave Clearance Interview - This primary source, written by the War Department, is an abridged set of the questions asked to incarcerees during the leave clearance interviews required before leaving camp. Many of the questions highlight the WRA’s assimilation goals for the Japanese American community.

Discussion questions:

  • What questions stand out to you? Why?
  • How did the War Department use the leave clearance questions to encourage Japanese Americans to shed their culture and assimilate into white American society?
  • What kinds of assumptions or biases do you think the people who developed the list of questions may have held about people of Japanese ancestry?

When You Leave the Relocation Center - This WRA booklet was given to Japanese Americans upon leaving camp. It lists the guidelines that incarcerees were required to follow in order to retain their indefinite leave status. It also discusses the role of resettlers as “ambassadors” for all Japanese Americans.

Discussion questions:

  • In his opening letter, Dillon Myer talks about how resettlement is an opportunity to get closer to the “real meaning of American life.” What do you think he meant by that?
  • What role did the WRA play in the resettlement process? What responsibilities were placed on Japanese Americans?
  • The booklet concludes with a section about how resettlers are “ambassadors” for the entire Japanese American community. What did it mean to be an ambassador?
  • Do you think it was fair for the government to place the burden on the formerly incarcerated “to create a public attitude favorable to yourself and to other Americans of Japanese ancestry?”

Present Status of the Community Integration Program in Chicago - This is a transcript of a speech given by Church of the Brethren minister Ralph E. Smeltzer at a WRA conference. Smeltzer helped manage the Brethren Relocation Hostel, which temporarily housed Japanese Americans resettling to Chicago. The hostel held mandatory meetings to enforce the WRA’s assimilation goals.

Discussion questions:

  • What role did the Brethren Relocation Hostel play in furthering the WRA’s assimilation goals for the Japanese American community?
  • What strategies did Smeltzer encourage Japanese Americans to use to assimilate into mainstream white American society?
  • How does the framing and phrasing of the questions on page 2 place blame on Japanese Americans for their own incarceration?
  • What do you think is lost when an ethnic group is pressured to assimilate?