CSUF News Service

Oral Histories of Internment in the U.S.

Grant Will Preserve Archival Documents and Interviews with Japanese-Americans


The Poston War Relocation Center in Arizona was one of 10 internment camps in the U.S. during World War II.

Cal State Fullerton is one of 15 California State University campuses collaborating on the digitization of almost 10,000 documents and more than 100 oral histories related to the confinement of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

The National Park Service awarded Cal State Dominguez Hills $321,554 to continue the digitization and transcription of this material across 15 campuses, including Cal State Fullerton. The Center for Oral and Public History (COPH) is leading Cal State Fullerton's efforts with the assistance of the Pollak Library's Special Collections unit.

Led by Greg Williams, director of archives and special collections at Dominguez Hills, the project kicked off last year with a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, which allowed for the start of the digitization of the Japanese-American confinement materials held by the university system.

The materials are being made available on a CSU-sponsored website and will become a teaching guide and traveling exhibit.

"This grant in particular would help us finalize recordings and transcripts and digitize other kinds of collateral materials that have only been in analog form at this point," explained Stephanie George, COPH archivist. "Being able to fully process these oral histories about what took place in California during World War II, and make them available through a website that is open and available to our local and global community members, is really exciting."

More than 120,000 Japanese-Americans, two-thirds of whom were American citizens, were imprisoned by the U.S. government following Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. The grant was one of 20 awarded by the National Park Service to help preserve these World War II confinement materials.

In 1942, an estimated 250 Japanese-American students were forced to leave their CSU campuses and relocate to internment camps under federal Executive Order 9066. In 2009, the CSU Board of Trustees awarded them special honorary bachelor of humane letters degrees.

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