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Conscience and the Constitution

Photo, Draftees report from Heart Mountain, Hikaru Iwasaki, March 3, 1944

A companion to the PBS broadcast Conscience and the Constitution, this site examines the refusal of a handful of young Japanese American men to be drafted until the American government restored their rights of citizenship and released their families from "relocation" camps. The site examines these acts of civil disobedience that met with disapproval from the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), an organization of first-generation Japanese Americans that supported the efforts of the U.S. military to apprehend and relocate Japanese citizens.

The site explores the dilemma of compliance and resistance through four sections. The Story gives brief (350-word) biographies of the 16 main characters, as well as a timeline that contextualizes the events from the passage of the 14th amendment in 1868 to the JACL's apology for censoring draft resistors in 2000. Compliance provides a 750-word history of the formation and activities of the JACL. Resistance examines the story of those men who, contrary to the wishes of the JACL, refused to be drafted to fight in World War II. Who Writes History explores the aftermath of the resistance and highlights the conflicting opinions among Japanese Americans.

These sections offer 15 video and three audio clips, more than 20 photographs, and more than 60 documents, including letters, court testimony, and government reports. There are also links to the websites of five related organizations and four Japanese American newspapers, as well as an 18-work bibliography of poetry, novels, and scholarly works on the topic. There is one lesson plan for middle- and high-school classes and another plan for college-level courses. This rich site is ideal for those interested in Japanese Americans, World War II, and recent American history, as well as the history of race and the history of civil disobedience in the United States.