During World War II, the Manzanar Relocation Center was bounded by barbed wire and guard towers to intern 10,000 Japanese American citizens. Executive Order 9066, issued on February 19, 1942, required 110,000 Japanese American citizens to abandon their homes, businesses, belongings and neighborhoods and become interned at one of ten military-style relocation centers during World War II. These citizens’ lives were abruptly interrupted and held for three years without formal charges, trial or an establishment of guilt.
Manzanar National Historic Site was established in 1992, and stands today as a vivid reminder of “how racism, economic and political exploitation and expediency can undermine the constitutional guarantees of US citizens and aliens alike.” (excerpted from California State Parks, Office of Historic Preservation).
The Interpretive Center represents three periods of history: the Paiute people who lived in the area from the year 600 until the early 1900s, the early ranching and farm period of 1860 to 1930 and the war relocation center where 10,000 Japanese Americans lived between 1942 and 1945.
Manzanar Relocation Center features an award-winning documentary, a self-guided 3.2 mile driving tour and an extensive Interpretive Center. The Interpretive Center uses its collection to showcase the painful story of relocation through a series of thematic scenes, displays, objects, paintings, photographs, oral histories and other interactive exhibits. The driving tour leads visitors past the historic orchards and cemetery in addition to the former site of former herb and vegetable gardens, dorms, recreation hall, kitchen, school and many other marked and vacant sites.
Allow two hours or more to see the movie, view the exhibits and interpretive materials, take the self-guided driving tour and browse the book collection and other items available at the gift shop.
Manzanar National Historic Site is located on Highway 395 in California’s high desert region in the Eastern Sierras, between Independence and Lone Pine.
Inyo means “dwelling place of great spirit” in Paiute Native American language. Inyo County has many “greats.” Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the continental United States and Death Valley, the lowest spot in the Western Hemisphere, are both within Inyo’s boundaries. Great earthquakes have left their mark in recent history, changing the course of the Owens River and exposing ancient sedimentary rock.