JASC Legacy Center Oral History Project

The JASC Legacy Center supports an on-going program of recording, preserving, and making available to the public oral history interviews that document the experiences of Chicago’s Japanese American community.  This program has existed over the years under different names, with different funding sources, and often in collaboration with partner organizations such as the Chicago Japanese American Historical Society, but the singular goal has always been to capture intergenerational oral histories that center the lived experiences of people of Japanese descent in Chicago and the Midwest.A main focus of the project has been capturing stories of War World II incarceration and resettlement in Chicago in an effort to fill a critical gap in WWII scholarship.  These interviews shed light on the often neglected history of forced migration and civil rights violations experienced by Japanese Americans, with a particular emphasis on the approximately 36,000 who resettled in the Midwest and on the East Coast – over 20,00 of whom settled in Chicago either temporarily or permanently – after being released from various concentration camps.  The WWII experiences of Japanese Americans are especially relevant today, when contemporary society is grappling with issues of immigration, incarceration, human rights and civil rights violations, and calls for reparations for other communities.

In addition to recording wartime and resettlement stories with the elders in the community, we are equally interested in recording interviews with younger generations to document the long-term impact of incarceration and the full breadth of the Japanese American experience in Chicago over many decades. We seek to record interviews with those whose voices may have been marginalized within the JA community, or who haven’t always felt a clear sense of identity or belonging.  This includes families that did not experience incarceration because they lived outside the West Coast exclusion zone, those whose immigration occurred after WWII, multi-racial families and individuals, people who identify as LGBTQIA+, and anyone else who can help us fill the gaps in the historical record.

All oral histories are recorded on video by appointment only.  Current options include on-site interviews conducted at the JASC office with COVID-19 safety protocols in place, or remote interviews conducted online.  All recorded materials will be preserved in the JASC Legacy Center archives and may be made available online with participant permission.

In you are interested in recording an oral history interview, please fill out this form to initiate the process.  If you have questions about the project, please contact the Legacy Center by email or call (773)275-0097 x222.

A selection of interviews from the JASC Legacy Center’s oral history collection is available online, and we continue to process additional interviews so that they can be added to the digital collection.  You can view the collection, which offers full-text searching across all interview transcripts, here.  There is also a selection of JASC Legacy Center oral histories available via the Densho Digital Repository here.


JASC gratefully acknowledges support from the Alphawood Foundation and the Japanese American Confinement Sites grant program of The National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, that enabled the Legacy Center to record, digitize, transcribe, and provide online public access to these oral history interviews.

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