Pledge of Allegiance / Lange
Pledge of Allegiance, Raphael Weill Elementary School, San Francisco
Dorothea Lange
American, April 1942, print 1960s
Gelatin silver print
13 3/8 x 10 1/16 in.
Questions for Teaching

• What is happening in this picture? What do you see that makes you say that?

• How would you describe the girl's expression? What do you think she might be feeling?

• Why do you think Lange chose to take a picture of a Japanese-American child reciting the "Pledge of Allegiance"?

• Why do you suppose Lange cropped the picture so that the Japanese-American girl is placed in the center?

• Does this photograph communicate a message or messages beyond the simple fact of a child's recitation of the "Pledge of Allegiance"? What message do you get from it?

• Do you recite or have you recited the "Pledge of Allegiance"? What does it mean to you? What do you think it meant to the girl in this photo?

Background Information

As far as Lange was concerned, her assignment from the United States government's War Relocation Authority (WRA) to document the Japanese-American evacuation process in northern California included picturing their lives in the San Francisco area before they were interned, as well as after. She made this image at a public school in April just days before citizens like this girl and her family were given numbers and transported to internment camps for the remainder of World War II. A group of schoolchildren are standing close together with their hands over their hearts and gazing upward, presumably at a flag. The image was cropped to draw attention to the girl in a plaid dress who stands front and center. Her expression is serious and shows strong emotion.

In Lange's words: "What I photographed was the procedure, the process of processing. I photographed the normal life insofar as I could. . . . I photographed . . . the Japanese quarter of San Francisco, the businesses they were operating, and the people as they were going to their YWCAs and YMCAs and churches and in their Nisei headquarters, all the baffled, bewildered people. . . ."

Although Lange undertook this photographic work on behalf of the United States government, it is clear that her sympathies were with the Japanese Americans. Many fellow WRA photographers attempted to present the internment in a positive light; Lange did not hesitate to convey the unfathomable injustice of Executive Order 9066.