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What’s in a word?


The story of the Japanese American experience continues to be shaped by the language used to describe it.

The language used to describe the Japanese American story during World War II has changed over time. To justify discrimination of U.S. citizens during WWII, the government described the imprisonment of its people of Japanese ancestry in euphemistic terms. The Japanese American Museum of Oregon uses this revised terminology to reflect the lived experiences of the Nikkei.

What wasIs now
Non-AliensJapanese American citizens whose parents or grandparents were first generation immigrant aliens from Japan who could not become citizens.
EvacuationThe forced removal of Nikkei from their homes along the West Coast.
InternmentIncarceration of people of Japanese ancestry. Internment has a legal definition that refers to the confinement of enemy aliens in a time of war.
Internment Camp & Relocation CenterAmerican concentration camp where people of Japanese ancestry were incarcerated. Concentration camps refer to areas of confinement that are used to imprison groups of people without due process.
Assembly CenterTemporary detention center where people of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast were incarcerated while more permanent camps were being constructed.
Dorothea Lange photo of Kimiko Kitagaki. May 6, 1942.