OAKLAND — The seventh annual Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution will be observed on Sunday, Jan. 29, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. at the Paramount Theater, 2025 Broadway in Oakland.
In commemoration of the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, the program’s theme is “Mass Incarceration Across Communities: What’s Next?” Special guests include Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, and Jeff Adachi, head of the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office.
In 2010, the governor of California signed the legislative bill establishing Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution on Jan. 30 (Korematsu’s birthday) in perpetuity. This is the first statewide day in U.S. history named after an Asian American. Korematsu’s growing legacy continues to inspire people across diverse communities and demonstrates the importance of speaking up to fight injustice.
The Fred T. Korematsu Institute is leading efforts to recognize Fred Korematsu in other states and also achieve a national Fred Korematsu Day to honor his legacy as a civil rights hero for all Americans. Since 2010 Hawaii, Virginia and Florida have also established a day of recognition in honor of Fred Korematsu’s fight for justice and the importance of upholding our civil liberties and the Constitution.
About Fred Korematsu
In 1942, at the age of 23, Korematsu 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, Prof. Peter Irons, a legal historian, together with 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. With this new evidence, a pro-bono legal team that included the Asian Law Caucus reopened Korematsu’s 40-year-old case on the basis of government misconduct. On Nov. 10, 1983, his conviction was overturned in a federal court in San Francisco. It was a pivotal moment in civil rights history.
Korematsu remained an activist throughout his life. In 1998, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from President Bill Clinton.
Since her father’s passing in 2005, Karen Korematsu has carried on his legacy as a civil rights advocate, public speaker and public educator. The founder and past executive director of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute in San Francisco, she shares her passion for social justice and education at K-12 public and private schools, colleges and universities, law schools, teachers’ conferences and organizations across the country.