U.S. Sen. Mazie K. Hirono led a resolution recognizing Jan. 30 as the “Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution.”
The resolution, which was co-sponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and supported by 50 organizations, recognizes Korematsu for his opposition to the illegal incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II and work to advance civil rights. It also denounces any effort to discriminate against communities based on national origin or religion.
“Fred Korematsu stood up for the rights of nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II, and continued to fight for decades to expand civil rights and overturn his own false criminal conviction,” said Hirono in a press release. “As we recognize Fred Korematsu Day on what would have been his 99th birthday, Fred’s life serves as a reminder that we all have a responsibility to defend justice and equality.”
In 1942, at the age of 23, Fred Korematsu was arrested for refusing to enter internment camps for Japanese Americans, which was required as a result of Executive Order 9066 issued by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
He appealed his case all the way to the Supreme Court, which upheld the executive order based on military necessity. His criminal conviction was overturned in a federal court in San Francisco 40 years later on Nov. 10, 1983. Korematsu remained a civil rights advocate throughout his life and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from President Bill Clinton in 1998. He died on March 30, 2005, at the age of 86.
“My father spent his life advocating for civil rights because he was concerned that what happened to him could happen again,” said Karen Korematsu, executive of director of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute. “Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution is celebrated in perpetuity in five states. I applaud Senators Hirono and Duckworth’s work to nationally recognize a civil rights icon and to remind us of the fundamentals of our democracy.”