Join us as we honour the legacy of Fred Korematsu on Fred Korematsu Day in California, a day of justice and civil rights activism.
- Date: January 30
- Main Components: Commemoration of Fred Korematsu’s birthday and his civil rights activism
- Popularity: Celebrated in several states and recognized by many organizations and institutions
- Pairings: Educational programs, cultural events, and civic engagement activities
- Variations: Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution, Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Rights Education
- Fred Korematsu was an American civil rights activist of Japanese descent who challenged the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.
- He was born in Oakland, California on January 30, 1919.
- He worked as a welder before the war, and had a girlfriend of Italian American ancestry.
- He refused to comply with the Executive Order 9066, which authorized the removal of persons of Japanese ancestry from designated areas.
- He was arrested and convicted for violating the Exclusion Orders, and sent to a detention camp in Utah.
Korematsu v. United States
- Korematsu appealed his conviction to the Supreme Court, with the help of the ACLU and other civil rights groups.
- He argued that the internment violated his constitutional rights as a U.S. citizen.
- The Supreme Court upheld his conviction in a 6-3 decision in 1944, ruling that the internment was a necessary military measure to protect national security.
- The majority opinion stated that “all legal restrictions which curtail the civil rights of a single racial group are immediately suspect” but also that “pressing public necessity may sometimes justify the existence of such restrictions”.
- The dissenting opinions criticized the majority for sanctioning a “legalization of racism” and a “clear violation of constitutional rights”.
Related: Holocaust Memorial Day in UK 2023
Aftermath and Legacy
- Korematsu remained in the camp until the end of the war, and then moved to Detroit, Michigan with his family.
- He changed his name and underwent plastic surgery to avoid discrimination and hatred.
- He married and had two children, and later returned to California.
- In 1983, his conviction was overturned by a federal court after new evidence emerged that showed that the government had withheld and falsified information about the alleged military threat posed by Japanese Americans.
- The court found that the government had committed “a manifest injustice” and that Korematsu’s case was “a cautionary tale” for future generations.
- Korematsu became a prominent figure in the redress movement, which sought reparations and recognition for the victims of the internment.
- He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President William Clinton in 1998, the highest civilian honor in the U.S.
- He also received numerous awards and honors from various states, organizations, and institutions for his courage and activism
- He died in 2005 at the age of 86
Fred Korematsu Day
- Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution is a commemorative holiday that celebrates his life and legacy
- It is observed on January 30, his birthday, in several states, including California, Hawaii, Illinois, Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, and New York
- It was first established in California in 2010 by then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who signed a bill passed by the state legislature with unanimous support
- It is the first day in U.S. history named after an Asian American
- It aims to educate students and the public about Korematsu’s story and its relevance to contemporary issues of civil liberties and constitutional rights
- It also honors other individuals and groups who have fought for justice and equality in U.S. history
Fred T. Korematsu Institute for Civil Liberties and Education
- The Fred T. Korematsu Institute for Civil Liberties and Education is a non-profit organization that was founded in 2009 by Korematsu’s daughter Karen Korematsu2
- It is based in San Francisco, California, and operates under the auspices of the Asian Law Caucus3
- Its mission is to advance racial equity, social justice, and human rights through education, advocacy, and activism
- It provides educational materials, programs, and resources on Korematsu’s case and its implications for current and future generations
- It also supports campaigns and initiatives that promote civil rights and civic engagement among diverse communities
Related: World Wetlands Day 2023
Korematsu Discovery Academy
- The Korematsu Discovery Academy is a public elementary school located in East Oakland, California
- It was named after Fred Korematsu in 2006, following a petition by students, teachers, and parents
- It is one of the few schools in the U.S. that bears his name
- It serves a predominantly low-income and minority student population, with a focus on academic excellence, social justice, and community involvement
- It incorporates Korematsu’s values and principles into its curriculum and culture
From Barbed Wire to Battlefields: Japanese American Experiences in WWII
- From Barbed Wire to Battlefields: Japanese American Experiences in WWII is an exhibit that showcases the diverse and complex experiences of Japanese Americans during World War II
- It was created by the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana, in partnership with the Fred T. Korematsu Institute for Civil Liberties and Education
- It features artifacts, documents, photos, and oral histories from the museum’s collection and the institute’s archives
- It covers topics such as the internment, the military service, the resistance, the aftermath, and the legacy of Japanese Americans in WWII
- It aims to educate visitors about the history and impact of the internment and its lessons for today’s society
- Fred Korematsu was a civil rights hero who stood up for his rights and challenged the injustice of the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II
- He faced discrimination, imprisonment, and ostracism for his actions, but he never gave up his fight for justice and equality
- He inspired generations of activists and leaders who continue to advocate for civil liberties and human rights in the U.S. and around the world
- He is honored and remembered through various commemorations, institutions, and initiatives that bear his name and carry on his legacy
- He is a role model and a symbol of courage, dignity, and patriotism for all Americans
- Fred Korematsu Day in California is a celebration of his life and legacy, as well as a reminder of the importance of defending our constitutional rights and freedoms.