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World War II Internees and To Kill a Mockingbird
By Gretchen Henry


GRADE LEVEL: 9th and 10th

To review standards, see the California Department of Education’s website: http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/st/ .

2.0 Reading Comprehension (Focus on Informational Materials)


2.5 Extend ideas presented in primary or secondary sources through original analysis, evaluation, and elaboration.

TIME REQUIRED: Two 90-minute periods



Students will practice using their critical thinking skills to make their own analyis and evaluation of primary sources.
Students elaborate on information from primary sources by connecting their primary source analysis and evaluation to other current or historical events and to the novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

Students will continue our earlier exploration of racial profiling and evaluate whether or not racial profiling was used during World War II and if it is being used in the book.



  • What are the immediate and long term effects of being imprisioned for crimes that you did not commit?

  • Did our government and the law enforcement officers in To Kill a Mockingbird use racial profiling to make their decisions about who was imprisioned?

  • If they did use racial profiling, was it justifiable?


Students need to have knowledge of World War II and of the people that were interned during the war, much of which they will get from the film Here, In America?  Since students may not be aware of this period in history, teachers will have to inform their class as needed.  Students also need to have an understanding of the term "racial profiling" and how it has been used in the past and how many feel it continues to be used today as a tool for law enforcement and for the government to either use racism to persecute certain groups of people, or to keep American citizens safe.


Students will respond to the following Quick Write prompt:  Have you ever gotten in to trouble or blamed for something that you did not do?  Of what were you accused?  Why do you think that you were accused?  How did this situation make you feel?  What did you do about these feelings?


Have students respond to the quick write prompt.

Ask students to briefly share their quick write with a partner, then ask for a few students to volunteer to share with the class.  Discuss commonalities between the stories with the class. Explain to the class that they are going to learn about a group of people that were imprisioned for something that they did not do, and based solely on something out of their control, their ethnic background.

Show the film Here, In America?

Have a class discussion about the film and clear up any misunderstandings that students may have.
Explain to the class that they are about to hear from two people that lived in the Elk Grove area during the internment

Show the clips of Bob Umeyama (Clip 1, Clip 3, Clip 4, Clip 5).  Discuss the interview with the class.  What surprised you?  Were there any similarities between the feelings and experiences of the internee and the experiences you or your classmates wrote about in your quik write.

Give students time to complete the first row of the the graphic organizer entitled "World War II Internee Interviews."
Repeat this process with the clips of Heidi Sakazaki (Clip 1, Clip 3, Clip 7).

Ask students to discuss their answers in groups of four and then ask students to write a response in the "Elaboration" section of the "World War II Internee Interviews" graphic organizer.

Now explain to the students that they are going to make some connections between the people interned during World War II and the character Tom Robinson in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Give students approximately 25 minutes to complete the graphic organizer entitled "World War II Internees and To Kill a Mockingbird." Spend the remainder of the class period discussing student analysis and opinion of the Tom Robinson case.


The following day conduct a class fishbowl or class debate discussing the topic of the World War II internees, racial profiling, and To Kill a Mockingbird

Inform students that this discussion will help them to prepare for a writing assignment about the topic. Have students write a persuasive essay (Writing Standard 2.4) in which they answer the following prompt:  Do you believe that Tom Robinson was killed because the torment of being imprisioned for something he did not do lead him to try to escape, or do you think that racial profiling led to Tom Robinson being murdered for a crime he did not commint?  Use your knowledge of what it feels like to be imprisioned for something you did not do that you learned about from the World War II internees, your understanding of the historical context of the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, and the text itself to prove your point.

Students that are not ready to write an entire essay can write a persuasive paragraph.

Students that are very high skilled can complete this assignment as a research project using other groups that have been racially profiled (or seem to have been racially profiled) to prove their point.

The essay or paragraph will be the final assessment of their understanding of the material.

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