JASC Legacy Center Oral History Project

JASC Legacy Center Oral History Project

JASC Legacy Center Oral History Project

The Legacy Center’s oral history collection holds over 100 interviews, of which approximately 60 are available view online:

Click here to browse our digital oral history collection

Click here to search for keywords across all interview transcripts in the digital collection

Photograph of JASC's oral history studio

The JASC Legacy Center supports an on-going program of recording, preserving, and making available to the public oral history interviews that document the experiences of Chicago’s Japanese American community. This program has existed over the years under different names, with different funding sources, and often in collaboration with partner organizations such as the Chicago Japanese American Historical Society, but the singular goal has always been to capture intergenerational oral histories that center the lived experiences of people of Japanese descent in Chicago and the Midwest.A main focus of the project has been capturing stories of War World II incarceration and resettlement in Chicago in an effort to fill a critical gap in WWII scholarship.
These interviews shed light on the often neglected history of forced migration and civil rights violations experienced by Japanese Americans, with a particular emphasis on the approximately 36,000 who resettled in the Midwest and on the East Coast – over 20,00 of whom settled in Chicago either temporarily or permanently – after being released from various concentration camps. The WWII experiences of Japanese Americans are especially relevant today, when contemporary society is grappling with issues of immigration, incarceration, human rights and civil rights violations, and calls for reparations for other communities.
In addition to recording wartime and resettlement stories with the elders in the community, we have also recorded interviews with younger generations to document the long-term impact of incarceration and the full breadth of the Japanese American experience in Chicago over many decades. We have sought to record interviews with those whose voices may have been marginalized within the JA community, or who haven’t always felt a clear sense of identity or belonging. This includes families that did not experience incarceration because they lived outside the West Coast exclusion zone, those whose immigration occurred after WWII, multi-racial families and individuals, people who identify as LGBTQIA+, and other voices that help to fill the gaps in the historical record.

Have a question about the oral history collection? Please contact the Legacy Center by email:

or call (773)275-0097 x222.

JASC gratefully acknowledges support from the Alphawood Foundation and the Japanese American Confinement Sites grant program of The National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, that enabled the Legacy Center to record, digitize, transcribe, and provide online public access to these oral history interviews. JASC also acknowledges the Illinois State Historical Records Advisory Board (ISHRAB) and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) for funding a project to continue our transcription and processing work to make more interviews available online.

Alphawood Foundation Chicago logNational Park Service log

Legacy Center Highlights

Explore the archives!

Our searchable database of finding aids provides background information and an inventory for each collection.

Explore the library! 

Use LibraryThing to check our holdings.  All are welcome to use our books on-site, and JASC members can check out books if we hold more than one copy.

Enjoy our digital exhibits! 

Engaging, image-rich exhibits to help illuminate the Japanese American experience in Chicago.

Listen to your elders! 

Our oral history collection features interviews with community members reflecting on a wide variety of topics from incarceration to contemporary activism.

Watch and learn! 

Check out a documentary film on incarceration and resettlement and a series of four films from 1975 featuring Issei voices.


Looking for your next great read?  Searching for the perfect gift?  The JASC Bookshop has titles suitable for children, young adults, and adults on a wide range of topics.  Find books about Japanese American history, books by Japanese American authors, books celebrating diversity, books about food and cooking, books about arts and culture, and more!

When you order any title through our shop, your purchase supports both JASC and local, independent bookstores.  You get the convenience of online shopping and shipping to your home, with the knowledge that your consumer dollars are making a difference.

Search for a title using the bar below, or visit the shop to browse our lists of carefully selected titles for readers of all ages!