Bellevue Community Center Dedication 1930. Photo Courtesy of the Matsuzawa Collection.

The Japanese American Experience in Bellevue Before & After World War II

All too often, difficult stories are ignored because they are considered too uncomfortable to teach or to learn, especially in the elementary grades. The new lessons include the experiences of several Japanese American families in Bellevue before, during and after World War II, to strengthen traditionally silenced narratives.

 

Development Through Community Collaboration

With the support of the Eastside Heritage Center and a 4Culture Heritage Grant, we developed an updated third grade social studies inquiry-based unit using primary source documents about change over time in Bellevue. This has been a two-year collaboration between EHC and our Bellevue School district staff: Michal Friesen, Grade 3 Educator, and Amber Anderson and Patty Shelton, Social Studies Curriculum Developers.

 

Analyzing Change Over Time

Beginning in January of 2022, students will analyze “change over time” through the perspectives and experiences of ten different Bellevue pioneer families by examining census records, oral histories, newspaper articles, maps, school yearbooks, photographs, property records, and letters, paired with historical fiction read-alouds and writing. Our curriculum reveals some of the untold stories of panic, discrimination, exclusion, resilience and allyship by having students respond to the compelling question: How did Bellevue Japanese American families respond to discrimination and exclusionary practices brought on by war and resulting in hysteria and racism?

Japanese American history within Bellevue is of historical significance to the students and families of the Bellevue School District and the community of Bellevue. With this grade three instructional experience, our aim is to provide a more complete historical narrative of the people and families of Bellevue.


The Bellevue School District acknowledges that we learn, work, live and gather on the Indigenous Land of the Coast Salish peoples, specifically the Duwamish and Snoqualmie Tribes. We thank these caretakers of this land, who have lived and continue to live here, since time immemorial.