On February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which paved the way for the forced removal and incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans from the West Coast following Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor. To commemorate the 75th anniversary of this historic miscarriage of justice, the Japanese American National Museum presents Instructions to All Persons: Reflections on Executive Order 9066, an educational and interactive exhibition designed to engage visitors in critical discussions of the Japanese American World War II experience and its continuing relevance today.
The exhibition will include, through May 21 only, two pages of the original Executive Order 9066 and the original Presidential Proclamation 2537, a key precursor to EO 9066 that required aliens from the enemy countries of Germany, Italy, and Japan to register with the US Department of Justice. Both documents are on loan from the National Archives.
Shortly after Executive Order 9066 was issued, a series of Civilian Exclusion Orders were publicly posted all along the West Coast to notify persons of Japanese ancestry of their impending forced removal. “Instructions to All Persons of Japanese Ancestry” were the infamous first words seen at the tops of the posters. Historic examples of these and other original documents from the time period and documentary videos, along with contemporary artworks by Wendy Maruyama and Mike Saijo, will form the substance of the exhibition, which will ask viewers how they might respond if presented with similar “instructions” today.
In addition, a limited number of special performances exploring the effects of legalized discrimination against minorities in America, produced with the assistance of East West Players, will take place in the galleries during the run of the exhibition. Another special component will begin March 24, when the museum will present Moving Day, a public art piece in which reproductions of approximately 80 exclusion orders will be projected on the exterior of JANM’s historic building each evening from sundown to midnight. Projections will coincide with the date of the orders’ issuance.
Instructions to All Persons is a unique exhibition that aims to examine the social impact of language and give viewers a critical space in which to contemplate the lessons of the past and how they continue to be relevant to the struggle for social justice today. The exhibition will encourage viewers to make meaningful personal connections with the material, and to compare WWII experiences with current events.