The Tanforan Assembly Center was opened on April 28, 1942 and until October 1942 housed 8,000 men, women and children of Japanese ancestry, most of them citizens, evicted from their homes and imprisoned during World War II in the San Francisco Bay Area. Tanforan served as a temporary detention center for Japanese Americans until they were shipped to more permanent concentration camps, the majority being sent to Topaz in Utah. This was done without charges being filed and without the due process guaranteed under the US Constitution.
The Tanforan Assembly Center Memorial Committee (TACMC) is currently working on two related projects located at the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train station in San Bruno, CA, historic site of the Tanforan detention center. The first project, originally co-sponsored with the Contra Costa JACL, is a photographic exhibition of the works of Dorothea Lange and Paul Kitagaki Jr displayed inside the train station. These photos include ones taken by Lange in 1942 of the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans on the West Coast, in particular of the families destined for the Tanforan temporary detention center and later Topaz concentration camp. Sixty years later Paul Kitagaki Jr, whose parents and grandparents were subjects of some of the original Lange photos, has tracked down and re-photographed many of the same persons documented by Dorothea Lange in 1942. The photos have been on continuous display since April 2012 inside the San Bruno BART station.
Kitagaki’s photos have become a travelling exhibition shown throughout the US over the past several years. Under the title “Gambatte! Legacy of An Enduring Spirit” he has exhibited at the California Museum in Sacramento, the Nikkei Center in Portland, Oregon, the Tucson Desert Art Museum, the Historic Fort Snelling Museum in Minnesota, and through April 2019 in the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles.
In 2019 Kitagaki published his book “Beyond Barbed Wire” featuring photographs and interviews of subjects or family members of photos Dorothea Lange took in 1942 of Japanese Americans destined for detention sites and concentration camps. In the spirit of “Never Again!” our committee strongly recommends his book especially relevant in this time of cages for children and forced separation of innocent families.
TACMC and the Contra Costa JACL would like to gratefully acknowledge the support of the BART Board of Directors and the National Park Service, Japanese American Confinement Sites program for their support of both the photographic project and the Tanforan memorial. We would like to thank our many donors and supporters who have helped to fund this all volunteer effort as well as the National JACL convention, National Japanese American Historical Society, Japanese American Community and Cultural Center, Andy Fukutome graphics, the pro bono work of RHAA and the University of California Berkeley Bancroft Library for the use of Dorothea Lange photos. We would like to thank our website coordinator Shizuko Angel and our Certified Public Accountant Milo Yoshi for their pro bono work on behalf of the memorial project.
We have made significant progress towards our fundraising goal of $1,000,000 to complete the memorial project. We have a matching grant from the National Park Service, Japanese American Confinement Sites program for $398,839.00 which we are currently fulfilling. The Board of Supervisors of San Mateo County through the offices of Supervisor Dave Pine awarded the project $250,000.00 for the memorial located in San Bruno, CA. The JA Community Foundation of San Francisco has awarded the project two separate grants for a total of $60,000.00.
These grants represent significant steps towards reaching our overall fundraising goal of $1,000,000.00 to build and maintain the memorial. We are continuing to raise support for this project and are counting on the public and individual donors to help us reach the goal. We hope that family and friends of those who were incarcerated at Tanforan in 1942 would want to honor and remember them with a contribution to help bring this memorial to life. We are offering donor inscribed granite paver stones to be placed within the memorial as a way to personalize a part of the memorial. Numerous families have already combined resources to contribute to a family paver stone.
The photographic and memorial projects were funded in part by grants from the US Department of Interior, National Park Service, Japanese American Confinement Sites Program. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the US Department of the Interior.
The material received Federal financial assistance for the preservation and interpretation of US confinement sites where Japanese Americans were detained during World War II. Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, as amended, the US Department of the Interior prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability or age in its federally funded assisted projects. If you believe you have been discriminated against in any program, activity or facility as described above, or if you desire further information, please write to:
Office of Equal Opportunity
National Park Service
1849 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20240