Fred T. Korematsu was an ordinary person who took an extraordinary stand. In 1942, at the age of 23, he refused to go to the government’s incarcer-ation camps for Japanese Americans. After being arrested and convicted of defying the government’s order, he appealed the case taking it to the Supreme Court. However, his case was ruled against him due to military necessity. Korematsu’s case was re-opened in 1982, when Professor Peter Irons discov-ered key documents that government lawyers had hidden from the Supreme Court.
On November 10, 1983, Korematsu’s conviction was overturned in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California. It was a pivotal moment in civil rights history.
In 1998, Korematsu received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the na-tion’s highest civilian honor, from President Bill Clinton. After 9/11, Kore-matsu continued to speak out, filing a number of legal briefs with the Su-preme Court on behalf of American Muslim inmates being held in U.S. mili-tary prisons. In 2005, after more than 60 years of activism, Korematsu passed away at the age of 86.
In 2010, California Governor Schwarzenegger signed AB 1775 (Furutani, Block), the Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution bill. This is the first day in United States history named after an Asian American. The law encourages schools across California to teach students about Fred Korematsu’s story and its relevance today.
Similarly, earlier this year, Governor Gary R. Herbert proclaimed January 30th as Fred Korematsu Day. Representatives from the Topaz Board, the Korematsu Institute, JACL members and other local dignitaries
were present to commemorate this occasion. For more information on Fred Korematsu Day please visit www.fredkorematsuday.org.