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Born Free and Equal
The Story of Loyal Japanese Americans
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Born Free and Equal
The Story of Loyal Japanese Americans

Text and Photographs by Ansel Adams
Introduction by Archie Miyatake
Contributions by Sue Kunitomi Embrey and William H. Michael
Edited by Wynne Benti
2001, 128 pages, hardback.

Book Description from Back Cover
Comment from the Back Cover Flap
Background on the Book's Contributors

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Book Description from Back Cover


At the onset of World War II, Ansel Adams, who was living in Yosemite with his wife and children, sought out ways to help with the war effort. Too old to enlist, he volunteered for a number of assignments in which his photographic skills were put to the country's use. He both escorted and photographed Army troops at Yosemite training for mountain warfare in Europe; he taught photography to the Signal Corps at Fort Ord, and traveled to the Presidio in San Francisco to print classified photographs of Japanese military installations on the Aleutian Islands. Despite his volunteer efforts, he was frustrated that he could not do more.

That summer, friend Ralph Merritt asked Adams if he would be interested in photographing a little-known government facility in the Owens Valley, on the east side of the Sierra Nevada. "I cannot pay you a cent," Merritt told Adams, "but I can put you up and feed you." Merritt was director of the Manzanar War Relocation Center, a collection of several hundred tar-papered barracks built atop a remote desert plain where more than 10,000 people were housed behind barbed wire and gun towers. All were of Japanese ancestry, but most were American citizens, forcibly removed from their homes by presidential order to ten relocation centers across the country. The resulting effort was the book Born Free and Equal: The Story of Loyal Japanese Americans published by U.S. Camera under the direction of the War Relocation Authority.

While at Manzanar, Adams met Toyo Miyatake, official camp photographer, interned with his wife and children. Long before the war, Miyatake had studied with the great photographer, Edward Weston, and had established his own respected photography studio in downtown Los Angeles. In the introduction to this book, Miyatake's son, Archie, who was then sixteen years old, recalls Adams' visit.

In 1965, Adams donated his Manzanar photographs to the Library of Congress. He wrote in a letter to Dr. Edgar Brietenbach: "...I think this Manzanar Collection is an important historical document and I trust it can be put to good use..." With the goal of realizing that good use, Spotted Dog Press, Inc. presents Born Free and Equal to new generations of Americans who may come to a better understanding of an incident in our recent history that should never be forgotten.

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Comment from the Back Cover Flap

One of the most memorable events at Manzanar was the time that Ansel Adams asked our family to pose for him. He photographed my mother with her school class as they played basketball and exercised. She taught physical education to both boys and girls from seventh grade through high school. Adams took our pictures individually and together in front of our door, at the store, and in the park.

My father, a graduate of the School of Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, Class of 1931, was not included in the pictures. He was away at Pocatello, Idaho picking potatoes to earn money so we could eventually move out of camp. He purchased two new dresses which he sent to my sister and me, our first store bought dresses since moving to camp. We proudly wore them for our pictures. I remember how happy I was with the unique design of my dress collar.

Ansel Adams returned another time to take pictures of my father, only to learn that he had once again left camp, this time for New York. We posed in different locations around camp for his pictures. Later, he wrote and published the book Born Free and Equal. We were thrilled to see our pictures in the book. I will always remember his kind, outdoorsy face, and his patience while taking our photos.

- Joyce Nakamura -

Pictured on the cover and inside this book with her mother and sister, Joyce Nakamura, now Mrs. Okazaki, is a mother and great-aunt.

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Background on the Book's Contributors

Ansel Adams, born in San Francisco, first studied photography with Bay Area photofinisher Frank Dittman in 1916. He married Virginia Best, daughter of the late painter, Harry Cassie Best, whose painting studio in Yosemite Valley later became their home and gallery. A photomuralist for the United States Department of the Interior in California in 1940, Adams also acted as photography consultant to the Office of War Information in Los Angeles.

Archie Miyatake, born and raised in Los Angeles, until his family's relocation to Manzanar in May of 1942. Son of Los Angeles photographer Toyo Miyatake, Archie studied with his father while interned. He has continued the family tradition of photography at Studio Miyatake in Southern California with his brothers and son. Archie and Sue Kunitomi Embrey met at Manzanar more than a half-century ago.

Sue Kunitomi Embrey, born and raised in Los Angeles, California until her family's relocation to Manzanar on May 9, 1942. While interned there, she wove camouflage nets for the war effort and later, worked at the camp newspaper, The Manzanar Free Press. She graduated from California State University, with a English, and received her Masters in Education from the University of Southern California. She cofounded the Manzanar Committee and serves as Chairperson Emeritus, Manzanar National Historic Site Advisory Commission. She is a board member on the Heart Mountain, Wyoming Foundation Advisory Board, the Japanese American Historical Society of Southern California and the National Japanese American Historical Society, San Francisco. Ms. Embrey retired in 1994 from the Los Angeles Unified School District.

William H. Michael is Director of Library and Museum Services for Inyo County and has worked at the Eastern California Museum since 1985. He serves on the Manzanar National Historic Site Advisory Commission.

At the beginning of World War II, the grandfather of publisher and editor Wynne Benti was classified an enemy alien in what Italian Americans call una storia segreta--a secret story. An Italian immigrant and New York City chef, he was not interned, however he was forbidden to travel beyond a five-mile radius of his home. Ms. Benti graduated with honors from Art Center College of Design and the University of California, Davis. She worked for many years at NBC and taught at both Art Center College and UCLA Extension before starting Spotted Dog Press, Inc. She is a member of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution.

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