The internment of Japanese-Americans became US government policy following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Radio and newspapers circulated rumors that Japanese-Americans were spies and could pose a threat to the nation's security. In California, there was already animosity directed toward Japanese-American farmers who were often viewed as competition. Eventually more than 120,000 Japanese-Americans were detained with no due process or evidence of espionage.
The Executive Order 9066 that was passed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the World War II removed Japanese Americans from the West Coast and incarcerated them into facilities such as the Fresno Fairgrounds. The victims of these incarcerations still tell their stories to this day to express the struggles they had to overcome while under detainment. One victim, Masada displays in the picture above, a piece of lumber that she carved the names of the family members who were also detained under the same facility.
Nancy Suda, whose family was sent to the detention center gives readers an inside look on the daily lives of the Japanese-Americans that were imprisoned in the Japanese American Detention Center. Families were placed in one person rooms, with torn sacks to fill with hay to sleep on, and people were forced to have limited clothing while imprisoned. Guards walked down the halls of the barracks twenty-four hours a day to ensure there were no escapees. The 5,000 Japanese-Americans would crowd into a mess hall for chow, which caused many to have food poisoning from the malnourished foods they were fed. Despite all the mistreatment, Suda and Masada explains how these victims were able to form their own community within the walls of the barracks. Children who were equally abused as the adults, conducted in class sessions taught by the adults even with the lack of school resources.
The Fresno facility, which was located in Fresno California, included more than 100 barracks in the center of the race track as well as four other blocks of twenty barracks each on either side of the track. Most of the inmates in the Fresno facility were sent to permanent camps in Arkansas and Arizona. The facility closed in October of 1942, the last temporary facility to do so. Even though the facility permanently closed, the detainees were sent to permanent camps for three more years which caused most the families to lose their farms, homes, stocks and much more.
A memorial to the site's role in Japanese-American internment was placed at the entrance to the fairgrounds in 1992. Not only was the memorial built to remember the ones who suffered through hardship, it also holds history on citizens whose rights were violated in their own country due to their race. The memorial recognizes the names of the citizens imprisoned by holding their names on bronze palettes, including snippets of stories and photos of the 1942 detention facility. The memorial was enlarged and renovated in 2011.
In 1988, President Ronald Reagan sent checks of 20,000 and apologetic letters to the citizens who were still living for the sacrifices they had to make due to the U.S. making faulty assumptions of them.