Korematsu was living in California when Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 in 1942, stripping American citizens of their legal rights, and allowing their indefinite imprisonment without due process. Thousands of Americans of Japanese descendants were removed from their homes and detained in internment camps (See post: Racial Profiling and the Japanese American Internment). Having broken no laws, hundreds of thousands suffered the undue loss of their freedom and property.
Rather than surrender to military detention, Korematsu went into hiding, only to be captured and arrested several weeks later. He contested his detainment as unconstitutional, but in their 1944 ruling on Korematsu v. United States, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the constitutionality of Executive Order 9066.
It was later shown that during the course of the proceedings, Solicitor General Charles Fahy suppressed legal documents that stated "there was no evidence Japanese Americans were disloyal, were acting as spies or were signaling enemy submarines." Through it all, white Americans either voiced support for the internment program or simply remained silent. Indeed, the ACLU largely sided with the FDR administration.
receiving $12/month. After his release, Korematsu was still strapped with a federal conviction, affecting his ability to get work, even above the racial discrimination faced by his peers.
Having spent his early years as shipyard welder aiding in the defense of the USA, he worked welding water tanks in Utah. He soon learned he was being paid only half of what his white colleges were earning. After asking for equal pay, he was threatened with arrest and was forced to leave his job.
Presidential Medal of Freedom
Though his name was cleared as an individual, the 1944 Supreme Court ruling in favor of Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066 still stands today. In Korematsu's words, "As long as my record stands in federal court, any American citizen can be held in prison or concentration camps without a trial or a hearing. That is if they look like the enemy of our country."
After September 11, 2001 Korematsu fervently urged the public not treat American Muslims as Japanese Americans had been treated during WWII. He also spoke out against detainments in Guantanamo Bay, maintaining that “full vindication for the Japanese-Americans will arrive only when we learn that, even in times of crisis, we must guard against prejudice and keep uppermost our commitment to law and justice.”
|With Rosa Parks|
January 30th is Korematsu's birthday. How will you remember his legacy?