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Fred Korematsu

Fred Korematsu: Champion of Civil Liberties and the Constitution

On Thursday, September 23, 2010, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed AB 1775, the Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and Constitution bill, creating a day to honor Fred Korematsu, who challenged the United States government’s internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

To commemorate his journey as a civil rights activist, the "Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution" was observed for first time on January 30, 2011, by the state of California, and first such commemoration for an Asian American in the US.

Japanese-American Fred Korematsu was born on January 30, 1919 to Japanese immigrant parents who ran a flower nursery in town. He refused to go to the internment camps, and was arrested. Fred challenged his internment in court, losing ultimately at the Supreme Court in 1944. Dissenting from the decision, Supreme Court Justice Frank Murphy pronounced the court’s judgment the “legalization of racism.”

In 1942, in Oakland, California, Fred Korematsu refused to go to the internment camps and was arrested.  He fought his case all the way to the Supreme Court, and despite his tenacity and courage the Supreme Court upheld the policy.  Mr. Korematsu’s conviction was ultimately overturned in 1984, a decision that influenced Congress to pass the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which recognizes the grave injustice done by forced relocation and internment of civilian Americans because of wartime prejudice.

After the War, Fred did not talk about what had happened for years. Even his own daughter found out about his case in high school. Later in his life, he began to speak out for civil rights again. Since then, he has been recognized as a hero by many, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton. During the last years of his life, Fred sought to protect the civil rights of people of Middle Eastern descent after September 11, 2001. He passed away in 2005 in Northern California. (Source:




Fred Korematsu

Fred Korematsu NPS