Fred Toyosaburo Korematsu
30th January 1919 – 30th March 2005
Ten weeks after the Pearl Harbor bombings, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which ordered the internment of Japanese Americans. At the age of 22, Fred Korematsu was arrested with a number of other Japanese Americans and sent to the Topaz interment camp in Utah.
Despite filing a lawsuit stating that his constitutional rights had been violated. The Supreme Court in 1944 upheld his conviction and sentenced him to five years probation, citing that his detainment was based on military necessity rather than a racial manifest.
Forty years passed and Fred came into contact with Peter Irons who provided proof (in the form of withheld government documents) clearly demonstrating that racism was at the heart of the case, not military necessity. By 1984 Fred’s conviction was overturned by Federal District Court Judge Marilyn Patel. Patel acknowledged that “great wrong” had been committed against Fred and all the other internment camp detainees.
The ruling helped pave the way for an official apology from the U.S. government to all those who had been interned, and reparations to the thousands of surviving internees. In 1998, Fred Korematsu was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. At the White House ceremony, President Clinton said, “In the long history of our country’s constant search for justice, some names of ordinary citizens stand for millions of souls — Plessy, Brown, Parks. To that distinguished list today we add the name of Fred Korematsu.”
Submitted by: Kit Bennett