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Exhibit | Exiled to Motown


Monday May 1, 2023: 10:00am to Wednesday May 31, 2023: 8:00pm


Lobby Gallery Screen


Join us for Exiled to Motown, a traveling historical exhibit that tells the story of Japanese Americans in metro Detroit. Japanese Americans have been a part of Michigan's vibrant history for over a hundred years, but their first major immigration to the Midwest came as a result of World War II. After being forcibly removed from the Pacific coast and imprisoned in the inland West, some Japanese Americans sought to begin life anew in cities far from home, like Detroit. There was a dark side to these Rustbelt refuges, however: The U.S. government felt that Japanese Americans would pose no threat to American society--and perhaps even assimilate completely--if they were scattered across the Midwest in numbers smaller than in the booming Japantowns of Seattle or California. Starting a new life in Detroit, then, was supposed to mean starting life without a Japanese American community, and leaving that culture behind forever.

Exiled to Motown is a testament to the persistence of Japanese American community in the Midwest, and the ways an exile became a homecoming, even amidst hardship. As you walk through our self-guided showcase of intimate, thought-provoking oral histories--on display for the public for the first time ever!--paired with vibrant archival photos, documents, and other glimpses into the past, you’ll have a chance to see the vibrant and storied history of Detroit from a whole new perspective.

This exhibit has been produced by the Japanese American Citizens League Detroit Chapter. We also wish to acknowledge the critical roles played by the JACL National Legacy Grant Program, The University of Michigan Department of English Professional Development Grant Program, the Bentley Historical Library, the Ann Arbor District Library, and the Novi Public Library in bringing Exiled to Motown to life!

Special thanks also to the Detroit JACL History Project Committee, which conducted the exhibit's foundational oral histories and published them in the print version of Exiled to Motown (2015).

For more information about the exhibit, please visit

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