Building Empathy is a project of PEF and PUSD, with support from the California State Library and California Humanities

Building Empathy: Honoring Histories, Identities, and Humanity

Building Empathy is a community-based education project that engages students and teachers in the Pasadena Unified School District in learning about the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II and the connections between this dark chapter of American history and contemporary civil rights struggles related to race, national origin, immigration status, religion, gender, and sexual orientation. The project features teachers and students working together on the development of lessons, research, writings, interviews, visual art, and podcasts to inform and educate each other and the community about the importance of preserving civil liberties for everyone. Support for the project comes from the California State Library’s Civil Liberties grant program.

Building Empathy is supported by funding provided by the State of California through the California Civil Liberties program, administered by the California State Library, and with support from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Comics, Memoirs, Research Papers

Pasadena High School

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Newspapers, Speeches

Blair High School

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Collages, Podcasts

John Muir High School


Exploration & Research

Japanese American National Museum & Little Tokyo

Stories from the Building Empathy Project

Page Header Photo: Common Ground exhibition at the Japanese American National Museum; photo by Monica Lopez

What we hear!

“The worst thing I would say about the government separating the families is that a lot of kids were probably stuck by themselves and were so lost and confused about what was going on and had no idea why they were in trouble or anything… They were probably wondering why they can’t enjoy life the same as every other person here.
—Angel, Rose City High School