Thursday, June 21, 2012

Ansel Adams Manzanar Photos at Bainbridge Island Historical Museum

Ansel Adams photo at Bainbridge Island Historical Museum

 We stopped at the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum because I saw poster saying there was an exhibit of Ansel Adams photographs of Manzanar - one of the internment camps for West Coast Japanese Americans during WW II.  My first awareness of the these camps came in the 6th grade when I moved to a new school and there was a Japanese girl in my class who had been born in a camp.

All the pictures originally were in a book published in 1944.  Copies of a newer addition were on sale in the museum.

A poster on the wall explains that Adams, living in Yosemite in WW II, was visited by an old friend, the director of Manzanar, who invited Adams to come photograph the camp.   Then:

You can read Ansel Adam's book, Born Free and Equal online from the Library of Congress.  Page five has the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.  Then this statement follows:
. . . . As a nation we began by declaring that “all men are created equal.”  We now practically read it “all men are created equal except Negroes.”  When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read “all men are created equal, except Negroes and foreigners and Catholics.”  When it comes to this, I shall prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty. . . . where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base allow of hypocrisy.
Watching the Video
Pretty strong statement, but the references to the Know-Nothings means this probably isn't Ansel Adams writing.  Turns out it was written in a 1855 letter from Abraham Lincoln to John Speed.  

We watched a 15 minute (or so) video about Manzanar.  There are a number of videos on Manzanar online, but I couldn't find the one we saw.  I chose this one because it connected the events of WW II with today.  It's the story of Muslim-Americans visiting Manzanar in 2008 and learning about what happened from Japanese-Americans who had been interned there.  Some of the footage was in the film we saw. 


  1. we visited Manzanar 11 years ago and were very moved. I think they have since built a visitor center but when we were there, it was just a flat ruin (the government razed it to the ground, apparently in a fit of shame, shortly after the war) but you could tell from the foundations where the buildings had been. you could see traces of a Japanese garden, made of rocks, that was one of the few areas of beauty in the whole place. the cemetery was particularly poignant.

    I had not been aware of the Adams book but thanks for the tip; I'll try to acquire a copy.

    1. I wasn't aware of the Adams book either.

      One of the places I worked just before coming to Alaska, and over the winter after my 2nd year in Alaska, was Main Fish Company at Pier 60, below the Pike Street Market. The company was Nisei-owned. Many of the workers there, including the owner and some in management had spent the war at Manzanar or Minidoka.

      Most had been well off before WWII, but lost everything, their property being auctioned off in very, very political events that made a lot of sleazy white pols, judges and attorneys very wealthy.

      After the war, my friends at Main Fish Company picked themselves back up. Many Nisei who had lost everything became postwar millionaires, in farming, fisheries and other fields.

      Unlike Gypsies, Jews, Poles and others in Europe, at least they were not murdered by the hundreds of thousands.


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