Within months of the December 7, 1941, surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, more than 110,000 people of Japanese descent, two-thirds of them native-born U.S. citizens, were forced from their homes on the West Coast and sent to 10 incarceration sites in California, the interior west, and Arkansas.
In June 2024, through a Landmarks of American History and Culture grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation will host two in-person five-day educator workshops to illuminate this national historical event. The workshops will occur at the Heart Mountain National Historic Site, which includes a nationally recognized interpretive center, walking trail, gallery, and original “camp” structures. The nearby towns of Cody and Powell, Wyoming also contain the Smithsonian affiliate museum, the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, and the Homesteader Museum, as well as other historic locations.
More than 14,000 Japanese Americans were confined at Heart Mountain during World War II, and spent up to three years coping with the loss of their homes, businesses, and freedom. The surroundings at Heart Mountain, as well as those in the other nine camps around the country, were forbidding and desolate. The prisoners responded in a myriad of ways: some complied with the War Relocation Authority (WRA), while others challenged the military draft; some turned the sandy soil into productive farmland, and others chronicled their incarceration through art and writing.
Many Americans know very little, if anything, about the incarceration. Yet it was one of the few actions for which the federal government later apologized; a 1988 law signed by President Ronald Reagan also authorized paying $20,000 to each surviving prisoner to compensate them for their losses. The apology did little to mute deep conversations about the legacy of prejudice, the denial of constitutional rights, and the role of presidential powers, along with the complicity of Congress and the courts. Japanese Americans were imprisoned without evidence; no proof supported the alleged threats of espionage and sabotage following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
The Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation invites educators of grades 5-12 from around the country to spend a week of summer 2024 learning about the Japanese American incarceration. Beginning with the stories of the first immigrants from Japan, the workshop will take participants through the Pearl Harbor attack and wartime hysteria that followed, to the incarceration, and eventually to the apology and redress payments by the federal government in 1988. Teachers will be guided in developing dynamic place-based lessons using primary and secondary source materials such as digitized artifacts, oral histories, and newspapers.
This NEH Landmarks of American History and Culture workshop will be offered twice: June 16 – 21 and June 23 – 28, 2024. Participants will have the opportunity to experience and engage with the local culture. Please indicate your preference and availability on your application due March 5, 2024. Applicants will be notified of acceptance status on April 5, 2024. Successful applicants will have until April 19, 2024 to accept or decline. Please read each landing page for each section carefully.
Who We Are
Our faculty includes scholars of the Japanese American experience and the incarceration from all over the country. They have decades of experience in teaching this history and telling these stories to students and teachers. Sessions will be led by former incarcerees at Heart Mountain, leaders of our foundation, and scholars from California to Massachusetts who have broadened the knowledge of thousands of students over the past four decades. Our scholars are also descendants of Heart Mountain incarceration site survivors, Apsáalooke leaders and allies, Homesteaders and local historians.
Our director, Sybil Tubbs from the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation, master teacher Tyson Emborg, and Executive Director Aura Sunada Newlin have a great deal of combined experience in working with teachers. For more on the faculty and staff associated with this workshop, please visit our faculty and project team pages.
The Heart Mountain, Wyoming and the Japanese American Incarceration 2024 Workshop has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy demands wisdom.
Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.