Why Don’t We Know Mitsuye Endo?

The Layers of Silence Around a Japanese American Hero and Her Landmark Supreme Court Case

Since 2017, a famous black-and-white photo has stayed with me: a young Japanese American woman sitting in front of a typewriter, hands poised in the home position, looking over her left shoulder and directing a close-lipped smile at the camera.

The photograph depicts Mitsuye Endo. At the time it was taken, circa 1944, she was incarcerated in an American concentration camp in Topaz, Utah. Of the four young Nisei—American-born children of Japanese immigrants—who contested the grounds of their incarceration at the Supreme Court, Endo was the only one who won her …