American Justice on Trial

Lesson Overview:

On February 19, 1942, at the height of U.S. involvement in World War II, President Roosevelt authorized military leaders within the War Department to place all Japanese Americans residing on the West Coast in detention camps. The following months saw the relocation of some 120,000 Japanese Americans, of whom 77,000 were U.S. citizens. The decision to relocate Japanese Americans raises many compelling questions about the workings of U.S. justice during crisis periods such as World War II. What if, after the war, an international tribunal had put the U.S. government on trial for violating the human rights of Japanese American citizens? In this lesson, students enact such a trial by means of researching documents, photos, and materials available on the World Wide Web. Students will act these roles: judges, historians, prosecution, defense, witnesses, media, and protestors. Students are provided with background information, detailed instructions, and online and print resources. The teacher's notes describe the unit's purpose and explain the application of history/social science standards. (BT)


Geoff Lillich


Grade Band:


Integrated Subjects:

Civil Rights



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A project of the Japanese American National Museum

Major support by The Nippon Foundation