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“I Am an American” Sign Placed in Storefront on December 8, 1941, in Oakland, California, photograph by Dorothea Lange, March 1942

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor caused some Americans to question the loyalty of Japanese Americans.  A Japanese American unfurled a banner proclaiming, “I am an American” in the window of his grocery store in Oakland, California, the day after Pearl Harbor. This photo was taken three months later, just prior to the man’s forced removal to an internment camp.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

I Am an American Sign

Asian American Policy during World War II

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942. It required the forced relocation and internment of more than 110,000 Japanese Americans, most of whom were native-born American citizens. Congress appropriated funds for its implementation and provided penalties for its violation. In contrast, Congress approved legislation in 1943 to shore up relations with China, a key ally, and lifted restrictions on Chinese immigration to the United States for the first time since 1882.

We recommend the immediate evacuation of all persons of Japanese lineage . . . whose presence shall be deemed dangerous or inimical to the defense of the United States

Representative Clarence F. Lea of California, Recommendations of the Pacific Coast Subcommittee on Alien Enemies and Sabotage, February 13, 1942