LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Events are planned for Pasadena and Torrance today to mark the third annual “Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution,” honoring an Oakland man who challenged the U.S. internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.
Korematsu’s daughter Karen will join Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard in speaking at a program at McKinley School in Pasadena set to begin at 10 a.m.
The program will also include an exhibit of photographs from internment camps, the showing of the documentary, “Of Civil Wrongs and Rights: The Fred Korematsu Story,” and a presentation on the Tule Lake Segregation Center by Yukio Kawaratani, an internee at the center, and Phil Shigekuni.
Karen Korematsu will be the keynote speaker at an event at the Katy Geissert Civic Center Library in Torrance beginning at 2 p.m.
Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution was established under a bill by then-Assemblymen Warren Furutani, D-Harbor Gateway, and Marty Block, D-San Diego, and signed into law by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Sept. 23, 2010.
The day is observed on Jan. 30, the anniversary of Fred Korematsu’s birth in 1919 in Oakland. It is the first day in U.S. history named after an Asian American.
In 1942, Korematsu defied President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s executive order authorizing the U.S. military to forcibly remove more than 120,000 people of Japanese descent from their homes and incarcerate them in camps throughout the country.
Korematsu was arrested and convicted of violating the federal order. He lost an appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in 1944 the incarceration was justified due to military necessity.
In 1983, legal historian Peter Irons and researcher Aiko Herzig- Yoshinaga 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, leading a federal court to overturn Korematsu’s conviction in 1983.
“After my father’s conviction was overturned in 1983, his mission was education,” said Karen Korematsu, a co-founder of the San Francisco-based Fred T. Korematsu Institute for Civil Rights and Education.
Fred Korematsu went on to champion the cause of civil liberties, not only seeking redress for Japanese Americans who were wrongfully incarcerated, but also traveling throughout the nation to advocate for the civil rights of other victims, especially after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Fred Korematsu received the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, from President Bill Clinton in 1998. He died in 2005 at the age of 86.
“History offers us many lessons, among them the cost of war and racism, and the strength it takes to achieve justice,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said. “Korematsu Day gives us an opportunity to reflect on all this and more.”
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