Exiled To Motown: A History of Japanese Americans in Detroit

Please Note: The Detroit Historical Museum is closed due to flooding.

The Robert and Mary Ann Bury Community Gallery is a changing exhibition space made available to local historical societies, museums, non-profit organizations and educational institutions, selected for their contributions to the metro Detroit community. Organizations are featured in order to share their stories and provide new perspectives on the issues, ideas and individuals that have shaped our region’s rich history.

It was officially renamed as a tribute to retiring long-time Executive Director Bob Bury and dedicated in a ceremony on November 1, 2018.   

Our Community Gallery program recently received the 2020 Leadership in History Award from the American Association for State and Local History! Learn more


NOW OPEN in the Robert and Mary Ann Bury Community Gallery

Exiled To Motown: A History of Japanese Americans in Detroit

Japanese Americans have been hard at work and play in the Detroit area for over a hundred years, finding ways to celebrate a distinctly Midwestern Japanese American culture while chasing American dreams. After being forcibly removed from the Pacific coast and imprisoned in the inland West during World War II, 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 was supposed to mean starting life without a Japanese American community, and leaving that culture behind forever.

Drawing on oral histories conducted by the Japanese American Citizen League Detroit Chapter as well as archival photographs, documents and family heirlooms lent by community members, Exiled To Motown delves into rich histories of labor, race and belonging in Detroit. From the Ford Motor Company to World War II, the murder of Vincent Chin and Japanese-Arab American solidarity in the wake of 9/11, Exiled To Motown sheds light on a little-known but critical piece of American history. 

This exhibition is supported by the Japanese American Citizens League National Legacy Fund Grant and the Japan Business Society of Detroit.