Never Again Is Now: Teaching Japanese American History to Inspire Action and Empathy Today

AHA Session 247
Sunday, January 5, 2020: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Gramercy (Sheraton New York, Lower Level)
Jasmine Alinder, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee
Jasmine Alinder, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee
Natasha Varner, Densho
Eugene Sun Park, Full Spectrum Features

Session Abstract

Representatives from leading Japanese American digital history initiatives will introduce their latest curriculum and lead activities that will equip session participants with lessons to help students deepen understandings of the past, while also offering tools for engagement and empathy in the present.

Densho will present a lesson from their latest curriculum, “Examining Racism and Discrimination through Oral History.” After viewing two oral histories and other primary source material, workshop participants will be led through a series of Thinking Routines (adapted from Harvard Project Zero) that will help them more deeply engage with the historical material and draw lessons about empathy and action that can be applied to the present. This curriculum has been tested with secondary and college teachers and students in Washington state, New York City, and Birmingham. While the Thinking Routines are tailored to particular subject matter, they can be easily adapted to other topics and lessons in the history classroom.

Jason Matsumoto (project producer) and Dr. Jasmine Alinder (lead educational advisor and content curator) will present The Orange Story (, a multi-media digital humanities project produced by Chicago-based Full Spectrum Features (“FSF”) that combines an originally-scripted, historically-based fiction film with curated primary sources to introduce the history of Japanese American WWII incarceration to middle school, high school and college students. The Orange Story leverages the emotional power of cinema to engage new audiences, while seamlessly delivering well-researched, curated educational material. The project received honorable mention for the National Council on Public History’s 2019 Outstanding Public History Project Award. Created by a team of filmmakers, digital media specialists, and public historians, this project was developed to meet the needs of educators. Jason will lead participants in a discussion about the project and the impact of empathy as an educational tool.

At the completion of these activities, workshop leaders and participants will come back together for an opportunity to share ideas about how to use Densho’s curriculum and The Orange Story -- as well as the learning techniques they are built upon -- in middle school, high school, and undergraduate classrooms.

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