About Uprooted Exhibit

“Uprooted: Japanese American Farm Labor Camps During World War II” is a traveling exhibit produced the by the Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission. It features forty-five images, taken by Farm Security Administration photographer Russell Lee near the communities of Nyssa, Oregon and Rupert, Shelley, and Twin Falls, Idaho in the summer of 1942, three text panels, and a short video featuring excerpts from oral history interviews with people who lived in the camps. The exhibit examines farm labor camps during the war and the use of Japanese Americans as a labor source, specifically in the sugar beet industry.

Between 1942 and 1944, some 33,000 individual contracts were issued to those Japanese Americans who left concentration camps to work in seasonal farm labor. The Nyssa camp, the first organized for Japanese American laborers during the war, opened on May 20, 1942. It held 350 individuals at its peak, many of whom lived and worked in eastern Oregon till the war’s end, rather than being incarcerated at Minidoka or other concentration camps. The overall Japanese American farm labor camp experience during the war has been little documented.

“Uprooted” is funded, in part, by grants from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program; the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities; the Fred W. Fields Fund of The Oregon Community Foundation; the Malheur County Cultural Trust; and the Rose E. Tucker Charitable Trust.

Since 1993, Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission has been a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation. First created in 1988, we just completed our first quarter century. Our mission is to discover, celebrate, and commemorate Oregon’s diverse literary and cultural legacy through media, memorials, and public events. Our programs and projects reflect the Oregon country in its wide-ranging historical sense and have reached audiences throughout and beyond the Pacific Northwest.

About Russell Lee

Photographer Russell Lee (1903–1986) is best recognized for his work with the Farm Security Administration (FSA), which from 1935 to 1944 produced approximately 175,000 black-and-white film negatives and 1,600 color photographs. During his tenure with the federal agency, Lee became the most prolific FSA photographer, producing nearly 5,000 images, including several hundred images of the Japanese American wartime experience. Between April and August of 1942, he documented the “evacuation” of individuals and families in California as well as four farm labor camps in Oregon and Idaho. His latter work is featured in the “Uprooted” exhibit. According to Lee’s biographer, F. Jack Hurley, he abhorred the government’s treatment of Japanese Americans during the war and wanted to document what he described as a very dark period in American history.

Interested in hosting the exhibit?

The exhibit is available on loan to interested cultural and historical institutions. Please contact us at uprootedexhibit@gmail.com to learn more about how to host the exhibit.

Have information about farm labor camp residents?

If you know someone who lived in farm labor camps during World War II or have any information about the camps you would like to share, please contact us at uprootedexhibit@gmail.com.