March 31, 2023

F red Korematsu with his Medal of Freedom (Photo by Shirley Nakao, courtesy of the Korematsu Institute)

Sacramento, Calif. (August 9, 2010) – The Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution bill was passed on the California Senate Floor with another unanimous vote of 34-0. This follows unanimous votes in the Senate Education Committee in June (8-0), the Assembly Floor (69-0) and the Assembly Education Committee (8-0) in May. The bill now goes back to the Assembly for concurrence before moving to Governor Schwarzenegger’s desk in August or September.

The bill is sponsored by Assemblymember Warren Furutani. It would encourage schools across the state to teach students about Fred Korematsu’s story and its relevance in today’s post-9/11 environment. If successful, the first Fred Korematsu Day would be celebrated on his birthday – January 30, 2011.

The Korematsu Institute is asking for people to make sure the Governor is aware of the community support behind the AB1775 bill so that it is signed into law before September 30. They ask for people to visit to view the letter and to send a message along with others to support the effort.

The Institute plans to roll out relevant curriculum in K-12 schools that week and on all future Korematsu Days.

Fred T. Korematsu was an ordinary person who took an extraordinary stand. In 1942, he refused to go to the government’s racist internment camps for Japanese Americans.

After he was arrested and convicted of defying the government’s order, he appealed his case – all the way to the Supreme Court. In 1944, the Supreme Court ruled against him, arguing that internment was justified due to “military necessity.”

In 1983, a group of young lawyers, most of whom were Japanese American, discovered key documents that government lawyers had hidden from the Supreme Court in 1944. The documents consistently showed that Japanese Americans had done nothing wrong. With this new evidence, the legal team re-opened Korematsu’s case on the basis of government misconduct.

On Nov. 10, 1983, Korematsu’s conviction was overturned in the US 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 nation’s highest civilian honor, from President Bill Clinton. The honor signified the fact that Korematsu had stood up not only for his own rights and those of his fellow Japanese-American internees, but for the civil rights of all.

His heroism and educational outreach efforts inspired countless activists and demonstrated the importance of building cross-cultural alliances in order to strengthen the broader civil rights movement.

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