You’ve heard of Earth Day, Groundhog Day, but have you heard of Fred Korematsu Day? That’s right — next Sunday, January 30, is Fred T. Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution. It’s the first day in U.S. history named after an Asian American and it was signed into law on September 23, 2010 by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Korematsu (1919-2005) was a national civil rights hero who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from President Bill Clinton in 1998. Here’s his story according to the Korematsu Insitute:
In 1942, at the age of 23, he refused to go to the government’s incarceration 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 the incarceration was justified due to military necessity.
In 1983, a group of young lawyers, most of whom were Japanese American, discovered key documents that government intelligence agencies had hidden from the Supreme Court in 1944. The documents consistently showed that Japanese Americans had committed no acts of treason to justify mass incarceration. With this new evidence, the legal team re-opened Korematsu’s 40-year-old case on the basis of government misconduct. On November 10, 1983, Korematsu’s conviction was overturned in a federal court in San Francisco. It was a pivotal moment in civil rights history.
And now the Korematsu Institute, a civil rights and education program of the Asian Law Caucus, is raising funds to to ship free Korematsu teaching kits to California teachers. Each Korematsu teaching kit includes 1) a comprehensive K-12 teaching guide, 2) multiple videos and lesson plans, and 3) a Fred Korematsu Day poster. The Korematsu Institute wants to distribute kits to as many of California’s 10,000 public schools as possible.
Watch the trailer for Of Civil Wrongs and Rights here.
Celebrate Asian American civil rights by helping to teach future generations about Fred Korematsu and a dark period in Asian American history.