As the pressures of World War II descended on American life, Lange took assignments from a range of government agencies, including in 1940 with the War Relocation Authority. Her task was fraught: to photograph Japanese Americans as they were marshalled into internment camps. The government intended these images to be purely documentary—not for publication—and locked away.
Lange brought her empathetic eye to the subject, focusing on the patriotism, emotions, and resilience of her subjects rather than any baseless wrongdoing. For several days in April 1942, she photographed students at Raphael Weill School, an elementary school in San Francisco’s Little Tokyo neighborhood. Images like Pledge of Allegiance, Raphael Weill Elementary School, San Francisco (1942) highlight the innocence and allegiance of American children of Japanese descent, some of whom were evacuated, just nine days earlier, in the first wave of internment of San Francisco residents.