A More Perfect Union: Japanese Americans and the U.S. Constitution
Located on the third floor of the National Museum of American History, "A More Perfect Union" documents the forced relocation of thousands of Japanese Americans during World War II. The exhibit focuses on the violation of constitutional rights that occurred during this process. The purposes of this review are as follows:
describe the scope, purpose, and message of the exhibit,
analyze how that message is organized and communicated,
evaluate the effectiveness of the exhibit, and
interpret the exhibit as a cultural artifact.
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many Japanese immigrated to the United States and started new lives on the West Coast or Hawaii. The majority of these people, as well as their children, held U.S. citizenship; however, due to the racial prejudice and distrust of World War II these Japanese Americans were denied their rights guaranteed in the Constitution. This statement is the overall message of "A More Perfect Union."
"A More Perfect Union" begins with the image of the Constitution portrayed on a large wall. Nearby, the Bill of Rights is shown and explained. The privileges guaranteed by these documents are fully developed through prose and quotations. The freedoms associated with U.S. citizenship are all clear in the minds of the museum goers as they proceed to the next section.
The second section of the exhibit contains information on the immigration and assimilation of the Japanese into the culture of the West Coast and Hawaii. This area shows how the first generation of immigrants, or issei, traveled over the Pacific to an entirely new nation and society. Many soon became citizens and a true part of the American community.
Shortly after the surprise attack at Pearl Harbor, suspicions of Japanese Americans grew, as did racial prejudice against the newcomers. Executive Order 9066 issued by President Roosevelt on February 19. 1942 was a result of this new racial hatred. This law forced 120,000 Japanese Americans to sell their property, leave their homes, and enter detention camps located around the United States. Many rights granted to citizens by the Constitution were blatantly overlooked during this entire procedure.
Finally, while many Americans of Japanese descent were being gathered into detention centers, others were fighting overseas. Over 30,000 Japanese Americans fought in World War II and these soldiers earned many medals and awards, even the Congressional Medal of Honor, while in service for the United States.
The main purpose of this exhibit is to inform the audience as to the injustices committed against Japanese Americans during World War II. The exhibit shows how the U.S. Constitution was ignored for a brief time of national crisis. Another purpose of "A More Perfect Union" is to celebrate the achievements of Japanese Americans. Despite the way they were treated and the...