Civil Liberties

Hawaii's Forgotten Internment Camps

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"After the war, there was a real silence and shame about this episode," says Brian Niiya of Densho: The Japanese American Legacy Project. "You still get a little reluctance in people to want to talk about this."

Niiya is referring to the internment of Japanese-Americans and Japanese foreign nationals in Hawaii. While the Roosevelt administration's internment of Japanese-American citizens on the West coast is well-documented, the story of Hawaii's internment camps was buried for years.

"On the mainland, I think it was understood that you did nothing wrong. I mean, everybody who was of Japanese descent got thrown into camps," says Niiya. "[In Hawaii] it was just select families. And for many years, members of those familes didn't want to talk about it."

Because so much went unspoken for so many years, very little was known about the camps themselves… until now. That's largely because Jane Kurahara, a researcher at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, made it her personal mission to uncover as much as she could about Hawaii's mysterious internment camps. And, amazingly, Kurahara and the cultural center eventually discovered ruins of a long-forgotten camp on O?ahu.

"Here was this very important part of history slipping away, very thinly documented, very few people knowing about it. And it was in danger of being lost," says Kurahara.

Reason TV spoke with Niiya and Kurahara about the history of Hawaii's internment camps and visited the newly discovered ruins, which will be open to the public soon. Watch the video above to learn more about the circumstances leading up to the internment of Hawaiians by the U.S. government.

Approximately 4:30 minutes.

Produced by Sharif Matar and Zach Weissmueller. Edited by Weissmueller. 

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