A Topaz Exhibit Is At The Utah State Capitol

S. F. Mori

It may be visited now

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Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake CityImage is author's

An exhibit currently at the Utah State Capitol features stories of people who were unjustly incarcerated at the Topaz Camp near Delta, Utah, during World War II. The exhibit opened on January 18, 2022, and will be available until December 31, 2022. It is a chance to learn about a part of American history which is not well known by most of the general population.

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Photo of the Topaz Camp Barracks(Image in the public domain on exhibit)

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii by the Imperial Navy of Japan on December 7, 1941, the people of Japanese heritage who were living in the United States were immediately looked upon as the enemy. Although the majority of them were American citizens who had been born in the United States, the racism and discrimination against them became rampant. They had always faced prejudice, but the hate which was exhibited toward them escalated.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942, which allowed the military commander in certain parts of the country to remove any persons from specific areas. The order was only used against people of Japanese descent who lived on the West Coast of the United States. It was a totally racist and discriminatory action.

The Japanese people living in Hawaii were not universally affected by the camp order although there were many more people of Japanese descent living there and it was closer to the country of Japan. The military commander over that area chose not to enforce the executive order. Many leaders within the Japanese American community were put in prison.

Ten camps were built in remote and desolate areas of the United States where The Japanese Americans and immigrants were sent. There were two camps in Arizona, two in California, two in Arkansas, and one each in Colorado, Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming.

The Utah camp was called Topaz located near the Topaz Mountain and the town of Delta. Most of the people sent to that camp were from the San Francisco Bay area of California.

The exhibit at the Utah State Capitol tells the stories of some of the people who were incarcerated at the Topaz Camp during the war years.

As anti-Asian violence erupted across the country after the start of the COVID pandemic, revealing the extent to which Asian people in this country continue to be “othered” and “demonized,” the Topaz Stories Committee launched the Topaz Stories website, sharing more than sixty stories from Topaz survivors and their descendants as a reminder of the human consequences of hate. Ruth Sasaki is the editor and webmaster. [She can be contacted at topazstories@gmail.com]

You can read the stories at: www.topazstories.com. The site has been visited by people from over twenty countries. The purpose is to educate people on this unfortunate episode in American history.

Max Chang and Brad Westwood with the Utah Department of Culture and Community Engagement assisted in preparing the exhibit which is featuring thirty stories from the Topaz Stories Project. The exhibit was designed by Jonathan Hirabayashi.

The exhibit is located on the Utah State Capitol's third floor mezzanine.

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A family outing to visit the Topaz Museum and CampImage is author's

The public is encouraged to visit the Topaz exhibit at the Utah Capitol during the year of 2022 and/or to visit the Topaz Camp and the Topaz Museum at Delta, Utah. The architect for the Topaz Museum is Darin Mano, a member of the Salt Lake City Council.

Visiting the Capitol exhibit and the Topaz Museum would be a good learning experience for young and old alike.

[Source: Topaz Times newsletter, www.topazmuseum.org; The Japanese American Story as Told Through a Collection of Speeches and Articles, www.thejapaneseamericanstory.com]

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I am a retired President/CEO of civil rights organizations. I have been a Mayor and California State Assemblyman as well as a College Instructor of Economics. I have also been an entrepreneur and international business consultant. I will be sharing articles mostly about life, politics, racism, travel, health, and relationships.

Salt Lake City, UT
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