WSU Lecture to Examine Constitutional Breach of Japanese-American Internment

OGDEN, Utah – The Weber Historical Society 2018 Fall Lecture Series will examine the experience of Ted Nagata, a Japanese-American interred with his family in Topaz during World War II

The public is invited to the free lecture Oct. 15 at 7 p.m. in Weber State University’s Hurst Center Dumke Legacy Hall

Nagata will begin with two short videos: one highlighting the history of the Japanese-American internment and the other discussing life in the camps. He will then answer questions about his own experience in Topaz, near Delta, Utah. Nagata has devoted much of his life to raising awareness of the Japanese-American internment experience.

“The incarceration was one of the largest breaches of our Constitution,” Nagata said. “Of all those who were incarcerated, 68 percent were U.S. citizens. We were suspected of being spies, but not one case of espionage ever went to trial.”

Nagata’s family was incarcerated when he was 7 years old. They were given six days to sell their possessions. They lost their home, car, furniture and bank account. Along with 120,000 other Japanese-Americans, they were relocated from the west coast to one of 10 camps in the interior of the United States, where they spent the next three and a half years of their lives.

“As a youngster, I did not fully understand what was happening,” Nagata said. “We did not know what we had done to deserve this. There were no trials. We lost everything.”

After being released from the camp, Nagata’s family relocated to Salt Lake City. They were left so destitute, they relied on welfare. While his parents tried to recover, Nagata and his sister spent a year and a half in an orphanage.

Ultimately, Nagata graduated from the University of Utah and became an accomplished graphic designer.

Nagata feels the topic of Japanese-American incarceration is of special importance in today’s political atmosphere where the topics of racism and immigration are prevalent.

“Our freedom is fragile,” Nagata said. “Never take it for granted.”

The presentation is sponsored by the WSU Alumni Association, the College of Social & Behavioral Sciences, the Department of History, Stewart Library and the Weber Historical Society.

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Eric Swedin, WSU history professor
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