Citizen Internees

A Second Look at Race and Citizenship in Japanese American Internment Camps

by Linda L. Ivey and Kevin W. Kaatz


At the beginning of World War II, Japanese Americans were rounded up and taken away from their homes and businesses for as long as four years. How were some of these "displaced persons" able to take care of their businesses and properties while imprisoned?

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Cover image for Citizen Internees

March 2017


Pages 277
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Race and Ethnicity/Asian American Studies
  American History/Race and Ethnicity
  • Award Winner!




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Through a new collection of primary documents about Japanese internment during World War II, this book enables a broader understanding of the injustice experienced by displaced people within the United States in the 20th century.

In the 1940s, Japanese and Japanese American internees of Redwood City, CA, had a dedicated ally: J. Elmer Morrish, a banker who kept their businesses alive, made sure their taxes were paid, and safeguarded their properties until after the end of World War II and the internees were finally released. What were Morrish's motivations for his tireless efforts to help the internees? How did the unjustly incarcerated deal with the loss of freedom in the camps, and how did they envision their future? And how did the internees both cooperate with the U.S. government and attempt to resist victimization?

Citizen Internees: A Second Look at Race and Citizenship in Japanese American Internment Camps is an edited selection from a collection of more than 2,000 pieces of correspondence—some of which is previously unpublished—regarding the internment of Japanese and Japanese Americans from Redwood City, CA. These primary source documents reveal the experiences and emotions of a group of imprisoned people attempting to run the necessary day-to-day tasks of the lives they were forced to leave behind—as property owners, taxpayers, and proprietors. Through these letters about practical matters, readers can gain insight into the internees' changing family relations, their financial concerns, and their struggles in making decisions about an uncertain future. The book also includes essays that supply background information, analysis of the documents' contents and meaning, and historical context.


  • Enables readers to see—through primary documents comprising letters written by the internees and banker J. Elmer Moorish in Redwood City, CA—how Japanese-American citizens who were interned during World War II handled their financial affairs
  • Analyzes the interactions between Japanese Americans and Anglo-Americans during a period of widespread xenophobia and racial tension in the United States
  • Helps readers to better understand the important issues of citizenship and race in America during and just after World War II
  • Reveals new information on the day-to-day lives of Japanese Americans while residing in internment camps located in various areas of the United States
Author Info

Linda L. Ivey, PhD, is associate professor of history at California State University, East Bay. She specializes in immigration and environmental U.S. history, with emphasis on California.

Kevin W. Kaatz, PhD, is assistant professor of history at California State University, East Bay. He is a specialist in digital history and the ancient world.



"This may be the only book to present a local community's internment history expressly by highlighting a particular archive that is dedicated to documenting its imprisonment. . . . The internees' lives take shape in stories that speak to anyone who has endured injustice. The authors provide, variously, excerpts from letters, transcribed letters, and photocopies of letters that illuminate the internees' subjugation and that likewise feature what this archive has preserved. An extraordinary book whose subject matter speaks for itself. Summing Up: Essential. All public and academic levels/libraries."Choice

December 2017 Top Community College ResourceChoice

"The heart of Citizen Internees is the steady stream of mailings, numbering some 2,000, transacted between Morrish and the Redwood City inmates, which are excerpted throughout the first half of the book and selectively reproduced in full in the book's closing half."Nichi Bei


Outstanding Academic Title, 2017 — Choice

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