Barely three months after Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, allowing for the relocation of anyone on the West Coast deemed a threat to national security.

Soon, nearly 100,000 people of Japanese ancestry (many born in America and half of them children) were assigned identification numbers and loaded into buses, trains, and cars with just a few of their belongings. After a brief stay at temporary encampments, they were moved to 10 permanent, but quickly constructed, relocation centers — better known as internment camps.


Departing for relocation. Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

In 1943, renowned photographer Ansel Adams visited one of the camps.

Adams was best known for his landscape photography, with his work appearing in galleries and museums across the country. But he welcomed the opportunity to see and capture life at the Manzanar War Relocation Center in the fall of 1943.

Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

These are just a few dozen of his photos capturing the unthinkable experience of being a prisoner of war in your own country.

Life at the internment camp was hard on the body and spirit.

1. Nestled in Owens Valley, California, between the Inyo and Sierra Nevada mountains, the camp faced harsh conditions.


Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

There were relentless blasts of desert dust, heat during the day, and punishingly cold temperatures at night.

2. There were 10,000 people crowded into 504 barracks at Manzanar, covering about 36 blocks.

Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

3. Each barrack was divided into four rooms, shared toilets, showers, and a dining area, offering families little to no privacy or personal space.

Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

Furnishings and creature comforts were sparse. Just a cot, a straw-filled mattress, and blankets. Up to eight individuals shared a 20-by-25-foot room.

4. Due to the severe emotional toll and inadequate medical care, some Japanese Americans died in the camps.

Marble monument with inscription that reads "Monument for the Pacification of Spirits." Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

Others, including some at Manzanar, were killed by guards, allegedly forresisting orders.

Though he was a civilian employed by the military, Adams was able to capture aspects of the camp that the government didn't want depicted in his work.

5. The housing section at Manzanar was surrounded by barbed wire and patrolled by military police.


Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

But shots of armed soldiers, guard towers, or barbed wire weren't allowed, so Adams worked around it. Instead, he captured these subjects in the background or the shadows.

6. So while he couldn't take a photo of the guard tower, he took one from the top of it.

Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

As serious as conditions were, internees attempted to make the most of an unimaginable situation.

7. They were allowed to play organized sports, like volleyball.

Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

8. Baseball games were popular too.


Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

To maintain order, teams of players from each center were allowed to travel from camp to camp to play ball.

9. Churches and boys and girls clubs were established.

A Sunday school class at the internment camp. Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

10. There were singing groups.

The choir rehearses. Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

11. And even a YMCA.

Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

In the face of adversity, everyone did their best to stay busy.

12. Kids went to school...


Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

13. ...had recess...

Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

14. ...and studied for uncertain futures, all behind barbed wire.

Students listen to a science lesson. Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

15. The adults worked inside Manzanar. Some maintained the dusty, arid fields.

There were 5,500 acres of land for agriculture at Manzanar. Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

16. They grew crops like leafy greens and squash.

Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

17. Or raised cattle.

Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

18. Others worked as welders...

Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

19. ...nurses...

A nurse tends to babies at the orphanage. Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

20. ...scientists...

Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

21. ...or shopkeepers.

Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

22. Workers earned $12 to $19 a month. Some pooled their earnings to start a general store, newspaper, and barbershop.

Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

By the end of the war, more than 11,000 Japanese Americans had been processed through the Manzanar camp.

And despite being held for supposedly posing a threat to national security, not one Japanese American was charged with espionage.


Photo by Ansel Adams/Library of Congress.

The Manzanar camp closed in 1945. Japanese Americans returned to neighborhoods and homes they barely recognized. And 45 years later, they received a formal apology.

In 1988, after a decade-long campaign, Congress passed The Civil Liberties Act, which required the government to pay $20,000 in reparations to each internment camp survivor. In 1990, the first of nine redress payments was made. A 107-year-old reverend, Mamoru Eto, was the first to receive his payment. Later, President George H.W. Bush delivered a formal apology.

"I took that as evidence that — in spite of the things the government did — this is a country that was big enough to say, 'We were wrong, we're sorry," one survivor told the BBC.

By standing up to hysteria and xenophobia — and refusing to forget this unforgivable era in American history — we can continue to do right by the thousands of Americans put in an unthinkable situation.

These photos remind us of why we will never go back to a place like that again.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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