Colors of Confinement

Rare Kodachrome Photographs of Japanese American Incarceration in World War II

Edited by Eric L. Muller

With photographs by Bill Manbo

136 pp., 10 x 9, 65 color plates., 6 halftones, notes, index

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-8078-3573-9
    Published: August 2012
  • eBook ISBN: 978-0-8078-3758-0
    Published: August 2012
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-6616-7
    Published: August 2021

Documentary Arts and Culture

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Awards & distinctions

2013 Joan Patterson Kerr Award, Western History Association

In 1942, Bill Manbo (1908-1992) and his family were forced from their Hollywood home into the Japanese American internment camp at Heart Mountain in Wyoming. While there, Manbo documented both the bleakness and beauty of his surroundings, using Kodachrome film, a technology then just seven years old, to capture community celebrations and to record his family's struggle to maintain a normal life under the harsh conditions of racial imprisonment. Colors of Confinement showcases sixty-five stunning images from this extremely rare collection of color photographs, presented along with three interpretive essays by leading scholars and a reflective, personal essay by a former Heart Mountain internee.

The subjects of these haunting photos are the routine fare of an amateur photographer: parades, cultural events, people at play, Manbo's son. But the images are set against the backdrop of the barbed-wire enclosure surrounding the Heart Mountain Relocation Center and the dramatic expanse of Wyoming sky and landscape. The accompanying essays illuminate these scenes as they trace a tumultuous history unfolding just beyond the camera’s lens, giving readers insight into Japanese American cultural life and the stark realities of life in the camps.

Also contributing to the book are:

Jasmine Alinder is associate professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she coordinates the program in public history. In 2009 she published Moving Images: Photography and the Japanese American Incarceration (University of Illinois Press). She has also published articles and essays on photography and incarceration, including one on the work of contemporary photographer Patrick Nagatani in the newly released catalog Desire for Magic: Patrick Nagatani--Works, 1976-2006 (University of New Mexico Art Museum, 2009). She is currently working on a book on photography and the law.

Lon Kurashige is associate professor of history and American studies and ethnicity at the University of Southern California. His scholarship focuses on racial ideologies, politics of identity, emigration and immigration, historiography, cultural enactments, and social reproduction, particularly as they pertain to Asians in the United States. His exploration of Japanese American assimilation and cultural retention, Japanese American Celebration and Conflict: A History of Ethnic Identity and Festival, 1934-1990 (University of California Press, 2002), won the History Book Award from the Association for Asian American Studies in 2004. He has published essays and reviews on the incarceration of Japanese Americans and has coedited with Alice Yang Murray an anthology of documents and essays, Major Problems in Asian American History (Cengage, 2003).

Bacon Sakatani was born to immigrant Japanese parents in El Monte, California, twenty miles east of Los Angeles, in 1929. From the first through the fifth grade, he attended a segregated school for Hispanics and Japanese. Shortly after Pearl Harbor, his family was confined at Pomona Assembly Center and then later transferred to the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming. When the war ended in 1945, his family relocated to Idaho and then returned to California. He graduated from Mount San Antonio Community College. Soon after the Korean War began, he served with the U.S. Army Engineers in Korea. He held a variety of jobs but learned computer programming and retired from that career in 1992. He has been active in Heart Mountain camp activities and with the Japanese American Korean War Veterans.

About the Author

Eric L. Muller is Dan K. Moore Distinguished Professor in Jurisprudence and Ethics at the University of North Carolina School of Law and director of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Center for Faculty Excellence. He is author of American Inquisition: The Hunt for Japanese American Disloyalty in World War II and Free to Die for Their Country: The Story of the Japanese American Draft Resisters in World War II.
For more information about Eric L. Muller, visit the Author Page.


"Stunning."--Huffington Post

"Injustice, in Kodachrome."--The New York Times

“[A] provocative and noteworthy collection. . . . [with] unquestionable cultural and historical significance.”--Publishers Weekly

"The strength of this title is the photography: Manbo documents a people who rose above persecution and injustice to carry on traditions and form a community in a barren landscape. Anyone interested in documentary photography and American social and cultural history will appreciate this book. Highly recommended."--Library Journal starred review

"This is a testament to the incredible power of photography. Even one frame can change the tide of public opinion because photography has the power to add layers to our understanding of how events transpired and how people were affected."--Washington Post

“These images offer readers glimpses of the internment that are in vivid color and, unlike government- sanctioned photos, candid and earnest. . . .Highly recommended. All levels/libraries.”--Choice

Multimedia & Links

Muller blogs at the group blog