Japanese American National Museum
Current Exhibitions

Gambatte! Legacy of an Enduring Spirit

November 17, 2018 - April 28, 2019

Gambatte! Legacy of an Enduring Spirit features modern and historical photographs documenting the stories of Japanese Americans who were forcibly incarcerated during World War II. Large-format contemporary photos taken by Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Paul Kitagaki Jr. are displayed next to images shot 75 years ago by such noted photographers as Dorothea Lange, Ansel Adams, and others; each pairing features the same individuals or their direct descendants as the subject matter. Inspired by the Japanese concept of gambatte—to triumph over adversity—the exhibition chronicles the strength and legacy of a generation of Japanese Americans who persevered over unimaginable hardship.

In February 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which paved the way for the imprisonment of 120,000 Japanese Americans living on the West Coast of the United States. The War Relocation Authority (WRA) was established to manage the forced removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans during the war, and it employed photographers to document the treatment of these Americans during their removal, at assembly centers, and at America’s concentration camps. In the late 1970s, Kitagaki learned that WRA photographer Dorothea Lange had taken pictures of his family as they waited to be taken to a detention center. Since this discovery, Kitagaki has been on a mission to identify, seek out, and document other individuals captured in WRA-era photographs. To date, Kitagaki has created contemporary images of more than 60 individuals or their direct descendants initially photographed by WRA staff and others. Illuminating a dark time in American history, this exhibition explores the lasting impact of Japanese American incarceration while conveying a message of triumph.

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