Issues of World War II: Internment and Discrimination


US History (11th) The United States and World War II Issues of World War II: Internment and Discrimination
Students learn about three types of discrimination that occurred in the United States during World War II: the internment of Japanese Americans, Italian Americans, and German Americans; discrimination against African American troops; and the inferior status of female service members. Next, they analyze and evaluate the bias of primary source media from that era. Finally, they explore the constitutional issues raised by discriminatory practices in wartime, especially the internment of Japanese Americans.

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Overview

In this experience, students learn about three types of discrimination that occurred in the United States during World War II: the internment of Japanese Americans, Italian Americans, and German Americans; discrimination against African American troops; and the inferior status of female service members. Next, they analyze and evaluate the bias of primary source media from that era. Finally, they explore the constitutional issues raised by discriminatory practices in wartime, especially the internment of Japanese Americans.

This experience contains a lot of content. You may choose to teach it over two sessions in order to spend adequate time on the various elements of discrimination within the United States during World War II.

Objectives

  • Analyze the internment of Japanese, German, and Italian Americans.
  • Discuss the constitutional issues arising from the internment.
  • Examine discrimination against minorities and women in the U.S. military.


In World War II, the United States and its allies were fighting for freedom against Nazism and fascism. However, America’s actions during the war were sometimes marked by the same problems of discrimination that plagued the country in peacetime. In this experience, you’ll learn how minorities and women received prejudiced treatment during the war.

Objectives

  • Analyze the internment of Japanese, German, and Italian Americans.
  • Discuss the constitutional issues arising from the internment.
  • Examine discrimination against minorities and women in the U.S. military.




Official notice of removal of Japanese Americans, San Francisco, April 1, 1942


Imagine that the United States is at war with a fictional nation called Fredonia. Fearing that Fredonia has sent spies to live in America, the U.S. government rounds up American citizens who have immigrated from Fredonia —or whose parents have—and makes them live in guarded, prison-like camps for the duration of the war.

More than 100,000 Japanese Americans suffered that very experience during World War II. The process of forcing people to live in a prison or a prison-like setting is called internment. Watch Japanese Internment in America to learn about it.


Predict what issues may have arisen within the United States as a result of the internment of Japanese Americans.

Post your answer

Accept any reasonable predictions. 

The above video consists entirely of historic footage, making it a primary source. You may want to show a second video, Revisiting a Shameful Chapter in U.S. History: Japanese American Internment. This video consists mostly of modern-day reportage and interviews, which are secondary source materials, with some primary source footage embedded. You might want to discuss the differences with your students and see what advantages and disadvantages they find in using each type of source material to learn about the topic.


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