Dorothea Lange made this photograph while working for the War Relocation Authority during World War II. The image is a poignant commentary on the internment of Japanese Americans shortly after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. Authorized by President Roosevelt, internement was deemed necessary because of the claim that anyone of Japanese descent posed a threat to national security. Over 100,000 Japanese Americans were uprooted and moved to desolate areas east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Lange probably made this picture at the Tanforan Assembly Center in San Mateo, California. At the "assembly center"--a racetrack where horse stalls had been converted into barracks--families spent weeks waiting to be sent further east. Evacuees were permitted to bring only those items they could carry. That one chose to include an American flag testifies to a genuine sense of patriotism.