Convicting the Innocent: Japanese American Youth at Topaz


Digital exhibit graphic for Convicting the Innocent – Japanese American Youth at Topaz graphic

In March 1942, just months after Pearl Harbor, the United States government forcibly relocated over 120,000 Japanese Americans from the West Coast, citing it as a military necessity. Both the U.S. government and citizens alike feared that Japanese Americans would betray the United States to Japan. Even before Pearl Harbor, anti-Japanese sentiment had been growing for decades. During World War II, racism towards Japanese heightened, as it became clear that neither the U.S. government nor its citizens fully acknowledged Japanese Americans as U.S. citizens. Instead, they labeled them “Japanese.” Years later, many Americans consider this event to be one of the most serious violations of civil rights in American history, as there was no evidence of Japanese American betrayal. Even more controversial was that children under eighteen made up thirty percent of the population living behind barbed wire at the Central Utah Relocation Center.

This digital exhibit will explore the ways in which Japanese American adolescents, ages ten through eighteen, responded to evacuation and internment at the Central Utah Relocation Center—more commonly known as Topaz, named after the nearby Topaz Mountain. For many, evacuation was a confusing and bewildering process that disrupted their educations, deprived their families of their livelihoods, and marked them as enemies.


Project Team:

  • Jane Beckwith (Topaz Museum Board President and Exhibit Content Reviewer - Topaz Museum)
  • Clayton Brown (Faculty Exhibit Advisor - USU History Department)
  • Dan Davis (Photograph Curator and Exhibit Advisor - USU Special Collections & Archives)
  • Alison Gardner (Digital Initiatives Assistant - Quality Control and Exhibit Reviewer)
  • Kellianne Gammell (Marketing Assistant - Exhibit Reviewer)
  • Alyson Griggs (Exhibit Creator)
  • Andrea Hawkman (Faculty Exhibit Advisor - USU Teacher Education and Leadership Department)
  • Shay Larsen (Graphic Designer)
  • Tammy Proctor (Faculty Exhibit Advisor - USU History Department)
  • Darcy Pumphrey (Digital Projects Coordinator - Quality Control and Exhibit Reviewer)
  • Abby Thorne (Student Assistant - Copy Editor)

Student Scanning Technicians:

  • Jennika Anderson (Digitization)
  • Sam Anderson (Quality Control Review)
  • Tommy Chau (Digitization)
  • Jake Matthews (Digitization/Quality Control Review)
  • Malori Menck (Digitization/Quality Control Review)
  • Brian Passantino (Digitization)
  • Maren Stephens (Digitization/Quality Control Review)