Surpassing Adversity: The Japanese American Journey

IRVINGTON —  The Bona Thompson Memorial Center, 5350 University Ave., is hosting an important exhibit about a part of American history many do not know about: the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Sponsored by the Hoosier Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League and the Irvington Historical Society, the exhibit is curated and designed by Anne Moore.
Visitors will explore artifacts from the internment camps, including photos and personal life stories from the people who were rounded up and sent far from their homes. Incarcerees created art, and kept anxiety and fear at bay creating crafts with found objects in the camps. A favorite community activity was playing baseball, that most American of sports. Most of the incarcerated bore the internment quietly and with determination.
It is hard to believe that the government ordered the incarceration of 120,000 Japanese-Americans from the West Coast, consigning them by force into camps with the few possessions they could carry. They lost their homes, jobs, and businesses, and subjected to numerous indignities. They were sent to one of 10 camps with only what they could carry in a canvas bag on their backs and given only a cot to sleep on. It was one of the most serious violations of civil rights in the history of the United States, and one that is barely mentioned in the history books. At the same time, young Japanese-American men were drafted from the camps into the U.S. Army — more than 30,000 served during World War II and more than 800 died in service to the country.
After the war, the families in the camps were released to resume their lives as best they could. Some returned to their former homes and found that neighbors and friends had kept things for them. Some moved on to new places and ventures to rebuild their lives. Their stories of endurance are also told in this exhibit.
In 1979, the JACL began a campaign to seek reparations from the federal government for the injustice they endured. President Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act on August 11, 1988, and the first letters to survivors were sent in 1990 by President Bush. By then, only 60,000 camp internees had died.
To mark the 75th anniversary of the internments, the JACL will offer a range of programs at the Bona Thompson Memorial Center. On Aug. 13 at 2 p.m., there will be a screening of “American Pastime.” On Aug. 19 at 2 p.m., there will another screening of “Of Civil Wrongs and Rights: The Fred Korematsu Story.” On Aug. 26 from 9 a.m. to 4p.m., there will be a Bird Pin Carving workshop where you can learn how to make wooden bird pins (cost is $25; register by Aug. 15 by calling 317-353-2826 or e-mail A second workshop is offered Sept. 23 at 9 a.m.; register by Sept. 12. On Sept. 2 at 2 p.m., there will be a screening of “The Art of Gaman.” On Oct. 1 at 2 p.m. there will be a panel discussion.
To see this important exhibit (from now until Oct. 1), visit the Bona Thompson Center on Wednesdays from 1-3 p.m., or Saturdays and Sundays from 1-4 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are gratefully accepted. If you would like to arrange a group visit at a different time (schools or organizations) please email or to make arrangements.