Today is Fred Korematsu Day.
FRED KOREMATSU (1/30/1919-3/20/2005) was a Japanese-American who resisted internment during World War II. The ACLU picked up his case as a way to challenge the legality of internment; Korematsu was charged and convicted of violating military orders.
Not until much later in his life was Korematsu’s name cleared and his cause vindicated. After uncovering new evidence that reports from the FBI saying Japanese-Americans posed no threat had been suppressed, Korematsu’s conviction was overturned.
In 1998, President Bill Clinton awarded him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, saying “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.”
Late in life, Korematsu also spoke out against the U.S. government’s practices at Guantanamo Bay and other sites, saying that if we learn anything from his story, it should be that imprisoning people without charge merely because they “look” like an enemy, and helped write amicus curiae briefs filed in cases against the federal government on behalf of U.S. citizens held at Guantanamo.