How much time were residents given to prepare for departure? What rules governed how much they could bring? What message does Lange’s photograph convey about the motivations behind the evacuation? Why would Lange photograph the exclusion order posted alongside air raid instructions? Does seeing the poster alone offer a different interpretation of the exclusion order?
In March 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the War Relocation Authority to manage the forced removal of persons of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast. Approximately 72,000 Japanese-Americans and 38,000 Japanese immigrants were sent to 10 internment camps located throughout interior areas of western states. This document reproduces the evacuation order as it was posted in west coast communities. The photo of a poster, taken by photographer Dorothea Lange, shows how the poster appeared at one San Francisco location. The War Relocation Authority hired photographer Dorothea Lange to document the removal process as humane and efficient. Lange took the assignment even though she disagreed with the decision to intern American citizens, and tried to capture the confusion and anxiety of the evacuees (see the third photo). She hoped that her photographs would encourage people to think twice, but the majority of her photographs were censored and never published during the war.