Japanese Americans Escaped Internment Camps Through Earlham College

Aug 8, 2019

One of the darker sides of America's involvement in World War II was the mass incarceration of an estimated 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans in internment camps. The U.S. government forcibly relocated entire families living in the western interior, but 24 students escaped the camps all together by enrolling in Earlham College, a liberal arts institution with Quaker roots in Richmond, Indiana.

Now the college presents a new digital exhibit on the 24 students enrolled from 1942 to 45. The project is supported by a major gift from the family of student Newton K. (Uyesugi) Wesley who escaped confinement from the Minidoka Concentration Camp in Idaho as part of the Japanese American Student Relocation Council program.

Now many Japanese Americans are speaking out once again about this painful history as internment camps have resurfaced in the news. In June, the Trump administration explored plans to house migrant children at an Oklahoma army base that once served as an internment camp. The site was also used during the Obama administration to house migrant children in 2014. An estimated 400 people protested the proposal, and in July the Trump administration announced it no longer needed the base due to a drop in unaccompanied minors.

Joining Cincinnati Edition to discuss the exhibit and the lasting impact of internment camps are Earlham College Professor of History Thomas Hamm; Japanese American Citizens League Member Gordon Yoshikawa; and Roy Wesley the son of former Earlham student Newton Wesley.  

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