Orphans Internment at Manzanar | The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race

How the Photography of Dorothea Lange and Ansel Adams Told the Story of Japanese American Internment


Manzanar had the only orphanage among all the camps, and it housed a total of 101 children at one point.  Called the Children’s Village, it had a sympathetic Japanese-American director, but its young residents were shunned by the rest of the camp — outcasts in a ethnic community that valued family ties and pure-Japanese identity. Incarcerated parents discouraged their children from playing or associating with the orphans.

Dorothea Lange, Manzanar, California, July 1, 1942. Orphans from San Francisco at the camp’s Childrens’ Village. (photographed by Dorothea Lange for the WRA, courtesy the National Archives [Archives Identifier 538187])

Although some of the orphanage’s children were left to the care of professionals before the war due to economic hardship, Japanese American society at the time was bluntly racist, and multiracial children faced discrimination within the tight knit LA community. Nineteen children at Los Angeles’ Shonien Home orphanage were recorded as mixed race, and a fifth of the orphans in the Children’s Village were multiracial according to records from the period.

The day before taking photos at the Children’s Village, Lange captured images of the camp’s first grave, which belonged to 62-year-old Matsunosuke Murakami.  One of the camp’s first detainees, Murakami had fallen ill upon arrival and was confined to the camp hospital for less than two months before passing away in May 1942.  Roughly 150 people died in the camp before it was closed on November 21, 1945.  Six graves remain at Manzanar, and one is for the body of an unnamed stillborn infant in an unmarked grave whose parents were later moved to another camp.

[Top photo: Ansel Adams, “Manzanar from Guard Tower, view west (Sierra Nevada in background), Manzanar Relocation Center, California” (1943). One way Adams got around the WRA restrictions (photographed by Ansel Adams, courtesy the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division [reproduction no. LC-DIG-ppprs-00224])



Between the Lines: Rich Blint, Wendy Walters, and Kiese Laymon
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, November 28, 2016, 6:30 pm

The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race edited by Jesmyn Ward uses James Baldwin’s 1963 examination of race in America, The Fire Next Time, to engage “eighteen of today’s most original thinkers.” Rich Blint will moderate this conversation with two of the book’s contributing writers, Wendy Walters, and Kiese Laymon.

Blint is the 2016-2017 Scholar-in-Residence at Pratt Institute. He is also the co-editor (with Douglas Field) of a special issue of African American Review on James Baldwin and contributing editor of The James Baldwin Review. Blint was also featured in our podcast series, “Schomburg Mixtape,” discussing the importance of Baldwin’s work.


  1. We are doomed to repeat these mistakes because we still haven’t really made amends for the past and now the present is presenting us with the opportunity to trespass all over again. Scary.

    Liked by 3 people

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