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Chicago JA Oral History Project Unveiled

Over the course of the exhibition, nearly 80 oral histories were recorded via the Oral History Studio. Mary Ozaki’s parents were U.S.-born farmers outside of San Diego before the start of the war. After settling in Los Angeles and starting a family, they were transferred between Tule Lake, Gila River, and Crystal City. They were released from camp to Seabrook Farms in New Jersey, where her parents worked on a farm. After getting word that a cousin had housing property in Chicago, she and her family moved to the city in 1949.

CHICAGO — The Japanese American Service Committee (JASC) and the Chicago Japanese American Historical Society (CJAHS) have announced the launch of “Untold Stories,” an oral history project that documents experiences of Japanese Americans during World War II and resettlement in Chicago.

This joint project will continue the collection of oral histories initiated during the recent exhibition “Then They Came for Me: Incarceration of Japanese Americans During WWII,” which was held at the Alphawood Gallery in Chicago from June 29 to Nov. 19, 2017.

Thanks to a generous donation of equipment, collected material, and the support of Alphawood Exhibitions, “Untold Stories” will continue to record the experiences of those Nisei and Sansei whom the incarceration and resettlement processes affected during World War II.

Oral histories will be recorded on video or audio either in participants’ homes or on-site at the JASC. The collected material will be edited and archived in both the JASC Legacy Center and CJAHS collections, and some will also be shared online with participant permission. Through a joint partnership with StoryCorps, audio recordings will additionally be preserved in the StoryCorps collections and the Library of Congress.

“‘Untold Stories’ will explore the continued impacts of the World War II incarceration process,” stated Jean Mishima, president of CJAHS. “In recognizing the urgent need to collect these stories to ensure their preservation, the JASC and CJAHS will work together to not only document these stories, but to make this information publicly available.”

“For us in the Japanese American community, we have seen what can happen when racism, xenophobia, wartime hysteria, and a lack of political leadership are allowed to flourish,” stated Michael Takada, JASC CEO. “We are committed to transmitting this message to a new generation, as we challenge ourselves to safeguard our civil and human rights in the protection of the most marginalized people in society.”

Anyone who experienced the incarceration process in the US, was in Japan during World War II, or resettled in Chicago during and after the war is invited to participate in this project.

For further information on the oral history project, contact the project coordinator, Anna Takada, at or (773) 275-0097, ext. 229.

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