May 11, 2022 - News

New site for Chicago's Asian American stories

Website for history

The Uprooted website tells interactive Japanese American resettlement stories. Photo courtesy of the Japanese American Service Committee

Japanese Americans forced to resettle in Chicago after internment tell their stories in a new interactive website, Uprooted.

Why it matters: The site offers a compelling choose-your-own-adventure-style curriculum for Illinois teachers who will be required to teach local Asian American history starting this fall under a new law.

State of play: The Uprooted project was led by Chicago's Japanese American Service Committee and the Japanese American Historical Society.

  • We recently spoke to multimedia journalist Katherine Nagasawa, who developed the curriculum and site.

Q: How did you decide to work on this project?

A: "As a fourth-generation Japanese American whose grandparents were incarcerated, it was a way for me to process and make sense of my own family history. To me, it felt urgent to capture this history while we still have living survivors to provide firsthand accounts."

Q: What was one of the most interesting things you learned?

A: "Just how much the period after incarceration shaped the Japanese American community. During the war years, the government permitted Japanese Americans to leave the camps under the condition that they geographically disperse away from the West Coast and integrate into middle-class white society."

  • "That's why Chicago's post-war Japanese American population swelled from several hundred to 20,000 in the span of a few years. The pressure to assimilate also caused many Japanese Americans to distance themselves from Japanese language, culture and community."

Q: What do you hope students get out of it?

A: "I hope Uprooted can give this history personality and color by centering individual stories of people whose childhoods were upended by incarceration and resettlement."

Editor's note: Monica previously worked with Katherine at WBEZ.

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