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Protecting the Truth: The Japanese American Legacy Project

Many Japanese Americans were incarcerated in concentration camps during World War II. Densho is preserving their stories and the cultural knowledge that comes with them.
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Photo of Japanese Americans, including the Kitamoto family, being taken from their homes on Bainbridge Island, Wash. Photo from Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community.

“A lot of my cultural background was probably taken away or hidden,” says Frank Kitamoto in a video interview recorded by Densho: The Japanese American Legacy Project. Like many Japanese Americans, Kitamoto and his family were incarcerated in concentration camps during World War II. For many of those who were incarcerated, their stories remained locked away as difficult personal memories. Densho is preserving those stories and the cultural knowledge that comes with them.

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Kitamoto passed away in March, but the interview of his experience is one of 750 visual histories totaling 1,500 hours archived by Densho. With a mission to educate, preserve, and inspire action for civil rights, Densho collects primary source records documenting Japanese American experience from the 1900s through the 1980s, with a focus on incarceration during World War II. In addition to the visual histories, the organization’s archive contains more than 12,000 historical images, documents, and newspapers. True to its name, which means “to pass on to the next generation,” Densho aims to make sure the stories of Japanese Americans will not be forgotten.


Kali SwensonKali Swenson wrote this article for The Power of Story, the Summer 2014 issue of YES! Magazine. Kali is an editorial intern at YES!

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