Fred Korematsu Day
Today several states are celebrating Fred Korematsu Day. Established first in 2011, “Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties & the Constitution” honors the legacy of Fred Korematsu, who resisted to the Japanese American incarceration during WWII. Instead of reporting to authorities in early 1942 for removal outside of the Exclusion Zone established by the government, the 23 year old welder stayed in Oakland with his Italian American girlfriend and even had plastic surgery on his eyes in an attempt to avoid recognition. He was arrested in May 1942 and eventually sent to Topaz War Relocation Center in Utah. Working with the American Civil Liberties Union, Korematsu sued the government challenging the imprisonment without trial of Japanese Americans. They appealed their case all the way to the Supreme Court, which, ultimately rejected Korematsu’s argument in a 6-to-3 decision that still stands, upholding the government’s right to intern its citizens. Although in recent decades, Korematsu has become a figure of resistance and standing up for civil liberties (he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Clinton in 1998), the Supreme Court’s 1944 ruling in Korematsu v. United States has never been overruled. To learn more about Korematsu, visit the Fred T. Korematsu Institute for Civil Liberties and Education.
The National WWII Museum hosted a special exhibit in 2014 which highlighted the experiences of Japanese Americans during World War II like Korematsu. Learn more about the exhibit From Barbed Wire to Battlefields: Japanese American Experiences in WWII.
Post by Curator Kimberly Guise.