Muller's New Book Offers Insider's View of Japanese Internment Camp

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Eric Muller, Dan K. Moore Distinguished Professor of Law in Jurisprudence and Ethics, has been fascinated by the history of the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II for more than twenty years. His interest began when he was teaching constitutional law at the University of Wyoming. He discovered one of the internment camps in Wyoming at a place called Heart Mountain, where nearly 14,000 Japanese-American men, women and children were confined during the war.

For years Muller, as an expert on the topic and as a member of the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation Board of Directors, devoted much of his time to overseeing the content and design of the new Heart Mountain Interpretive Learning Center, which opened last year. It was during his work on the new center that he discovered the rare color photos of Bill Manbo (1908-1992), who was confined at Heart Mountain with his family in 1942.

"I knew immediately that these images had the potential to reshape our visual understanding of this chapter of American history," Muller says.

While in the internment camp, Manbo documented both the bleakness and beauty of his surroundings, using Kodachrome film, a technology then just seven years old, to capture community celebrations and to record his family's struggle to maintain a normal life under the harsh conditions of racial imprisonment.

Colors of Confinement cover

Muller collected the photos in his new book, Colors of Confinement (UNC Press, in association with the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University), showcasing 65 color images from this rare collection. The photos are published along with three interpretive essays by Muller and other leading scholars, along with a personal essay by a former Heart Mountain internee. Muller says each of the essays helps the reader look at the photographs from a different perspective.

"We are accustomed to thinking of the internees' lives unfolding in black and white, but the vibrant colors of these images remind us that these injustices took place in a world that looks very much like the one we see out our own windows," says Muller.

The book was published to early critical praise, including feature stories by the New York Times and National Public Radio. Read an interview with Muller about the book.

-August 15, 2012

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