Dean Yabuki Papers, 1931-1993

(1 box, 0.4 linear feet items)

Collection 3015

© The Historical Society of Pennsylvania
1300 Locust Street * Philadelphia, PA 19107

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Table of contents
The Dean Yabuki Papers relate to a selection of photographs taken by Dorthea Lange and others at various Japanese-American internment camps during World War II. In 1992, to mark the 50th anniversary of the creation of the camps, Dean Yabuki created, "Captured Memories," an exhibition of Dorthea Lange's photographs, which chronicled the removal of Japanese Americans from California. This collection contains copies of prints by Lange and others used in the exhibit at the Asian Resource Gallery in Oakland, California. The photographs are accompanied by various printed items, pertaining not only to the exhibit, but also the experiences of those who felt the injustice first hand.

Background note
On 19 February 1942, just three months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Executive Order 9066 directed the forced removal of over 120,000 Japanese Americans from their homes in the "western defense zone" and placed them in one of ten concentration camps located in isolated areas of Utah, Montana, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado and Idaho. To document the environment of these camps, the War Relocation Authority (WRA) hired Dorthea Lange, Ansel Adams, and numerous others to photograph the entire relocation experience.

Dorthea Lange is perhaps best known for her photographs with the Farm Security Administration during the Great Depression, and her joint publication with her husband, the agricultural economist, Paul Taylor, titled An American Exodus. In February 1942, Lange was assigned by the WRA to record the experiences of San Francisco Bay area internees prior to and during evacuation. She followed the internees to the Topaz camp in Utah, but remained with the project only through the summer of 1942. An array of racial and civil rights issues emerged from the internment of the Japanese, which eventually led both Lange and Taylor to speak out openly against Executive Order 9066. Lange soon found herself at odds with her employer, primarily over the content of her photographs, which depicted dignified Japanese Americans in deplorable surroundings. Her work with the WRA is perhaps best described by New York Times critic A.D. Coleman, who praised Lange's use of "the photograph as evidence, not as graphic design or art....they happen to be superbly made pieces of evidence, documents of such high order that they convey the feelings of the victims as well as the facts of the crime."

Dean Yabuki began compiling the photographs taken by Lange in 1988 after seeing some in the Smithsonian Institution's exhibit commemorating the 200th anniversary of the United States Constitution. Noticing that the photos of the internment camps were not identified, he decided to track down internees from their photographs, identify them and tell their stories. He began the project by recounting the emotional experience of his own family in the Topaz Relocation Center. In the course of his research at the Still Branch of the National Archives, he discovered hundreds of Dorthea Lange photographs, many of which were previously unpublished.

Yabuki's completed exhibit was titled "'Captured Memories' 50th Anniversary Exhibit of the Dorthea Lange Photographs Chronicling the Removal and Internment of Japanese Americans" and was displayed in the lobby of the Asian Resource Gallery in Oakland, California during the months of May and June 1992.

Scope and content
Although the bulk of the collection pertains directly to the exhibit of Dorthea Lange photographs designed by Dean Yabuki, there are very few prints that can be positively identified as Lange photographs. A group of twenty unidentified photos, located in the last folder of box one, may have been taken by Lange, but their subject matter does not seem to match the humanistic approach to photography for which Lange is known.

A group of 45 photocopied photographs, taken by various photographers, depict Japanese Americans in settings following their relocation from the concentration camps. These photographs show staged scenes, with smiling subjects, and appear to be obvious propaganda shots when compared to those taken by Lange. One such photograph shows a man picking flowers with a caption that reads, "Mr. Kobayashi finds that raising flowers on the Gun Mill Farm in Bloomfield, Connecticut is not much different than at his former home in San Leandro, California."

There is also material providing insight into the experience of Yabuki's ancestors at Topaz Camp, Utah. These include a blueprint of the "Topaz Relocation Center" and a "Final Accountability Roster" from Topaz, which lists the names of his grandparents and mother. The remaining material is in the form of booklets, which pertain to various aspects of Japanese American life, including oral history guides, teacher's guides, festival programs and AIDS brochures.

Administrative information
Restrictions on use
The collection is open for research.

Preferred citation
Cite as: [Indicate item, box and folder #s here], Dean Yabuki Papers (Collection 3015), The Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Gift of Dean Yabuki, 1993.

Accession numbers: M93-44, M93-54, M93-95.

Processing notes
Processed by: Patrick Shea

Processing Completed: May 2002

The organization of this collection remains similar to the condition in which it was received. However, some individual folders were brimming with material, requiring them to be divided among numerous folders. In separating the material, related items were grouped and housed together, while individual booklets were each given separate folders. For organizational sake, all of the material has been arranged into chronological order.

Additional information
Related material
Related manuscript collections at HSP:

Yabuki Family Papers

Separated material
Separated to HSP library

Lukes, Timothy J. Japanese Legacy: Farming and Community Life in Santa Clara Valley. Cupertino, CA: California History Center, 1985.

Mochizuki, Ken. Baseball Saved Us. New York: Lee #38: Low Books, Inc., 1993.

National Japanese American Historical Society. Nikkei Heritage, 1991-1992. (3 issues)

Oakland Heritage Alliance. Oakland Heritage Alliance News, 1992. (3 issues)

Uyeda, Clifford I. ed. Americans of Japanese Ancestry and the United States Constitution 1787-1797. San Francisco: National Japanese American Historical Society, 1987.

Language(s) represented

Fowler, Daniel. Dorothea Lange and the Relocation of the Japanese, 10 May 1998.

Hoida, Tanya. Through the Photographer's Lenses.

Uyeda, Clifford I. ed. Americans of Japanese Ancestry and the United States Constitution 1787-1797. San Francisco: National Japanese American Historical Society, 1987.

Women Come to the Front: Journalists, Photographers, and Broadcasters During World War II

Added entries
  • Concentration Camps--United States of America
  • Documentary Photography
  • Immigrants--Japanese--United States of America--Services for
  • Immigrants--Japanese-United States of America--Legal Status, Laws, etc.
  • Japanese American Children
  • Japanese American Families
  • Japanese American Veterans
  • Japanese Americans--Cultural Assimilation
  • Japanese Americans--Evacuation and Relocation, 1942-1945
  • Photograph Collections-Washington D.C.
  • United States of America-Emigration and Immigration
  • United States of America-Emigration and Immigration Law
  • War Photography
  • Women Photographers
  • World War, 1939-1945--Evacuation of Civilians
  • Contributors
  • Lange, Dorthea (1895-1965)
  • Yabuki, Dean M.
  • Contact information

    The Historical Society of Pennsylvania
    1300 Locust Street
    Philadelphia, PA 19107


    Processing made possible by a grant from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC).

    Collection inventory


    Dean Yabuki, Papers

    H.L. Shapiro Booklet, The Chinese Population in Hawaii
    1 item
    Box 1: 1

    War Relocation Authority, Instructions to Photographers
    1 item
    Box 1: 2

    Newspaper Clippings
    22 items
    Box 1: 3

    Nobu Miyoshi, Booklet - Identity Crisis of The Sansei #38: Concentration Camp
    1 item
    Box 1: 4

    Booklet, Strength and Diversity: Japanese American Women, 1885 to 1990, Study Guide
    1 item
    Box 1: 5

    Booklet - 7th Annual Gandhi Mela Festival
    1 item
    Box 1: 6

    National Japanese American Historical Society, Booklet - Japanese American Oral History Guide
    1 item
    Box 1: 7

    Captured Memories Exhibit, Advertisements
    6 items
    Box 1: 8

    Captured Memories Exhibit, Correspondence
    5 items
    Box 1: 9

    Captured Memories Exhibit, Exhibit text for Captured Memories, 50th Anniversary Exhibit of the Dorthea Lange Photographs Chronicling the Removal and Internment of Japanese Americans
    1 item
    Box 1: 10

    Photographs, with Captions (reproductions)
    45 items
    Box 1: 11

    Booklet - Teacher's Guide: The Bill of Rights and the Japanese American World War II Experience
    1 item
    Box 1: 12

    Printed Material pertaining to Asian Americans and AIDS
    9 items
    Box 1: 13

    Correspondence and Printed Materials pertaining to the memory of Japanese Internment
    5 items
    Box 1: 14

    Topaz Relocation Center, Final Accountability Roster, (reproduction)
    1 item
    Box 1: 15

    Topaz Relocation Center, Building blueprints
    3 items
    Box 1: 16

    Unidentified Photographs
    20 items
    Box 1: 17