TORRANCE — “Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution” will be commemorated on Saturday, Jan. 26, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Katy Geissert Civic Center Library, 3031 Torrance Bl., Torrance.
The program is co-sponsored by the South Bay JACL, Torrance JACL, Greater L.A. Singles JACL, Japanese American Historical Society of Southern California, and the Torrance Public Library.
The State of California declared Jan. 30, the civil rights icon’s birthday, as Fred Korematsu Day in 2010 and observed for the first time in 2011. It was the first such commemoration for an Asian American in the United States.
City councils that have officially recognized Fred Korematsu Day include Pasadena, Hawthorne, Carson, Gardena and Torrance. Several school boards have passed similar resolutions.
Following President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, Korematsu refused to comply with the forced removal of West Coast Japanese Americans to the government’s incarceration camps. He was arrested and convicted of defying the government’s order. He appealed his case all the way to the Supreme Court, but his conviction was upheld in 1944 as justified due to “military necessity.”
Key documents were discovered and researched in 1983 by Prof. Peter Irons and researcher Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga. These documents were hidden by government intelligence agencies from the Supreme Court in 1944.
The 40-year-old case was reopened by a pro bono legal team of Japanese American attorneys with Dale Minami as lead counsel. The conviction was overturned on Nov. 11, 1983, in a San Francisco federal court.
In 1998, Korematsu received the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, from President Bill Clinton. Korematsu passed away in 2005 at the age of 86.
Karen Korematsu, daughter of Fred and Kathryn Korematsu and co-founder of the Korematsu Institute, is the keynote speaker for the Jan. 26 program.
For more information, contact Alayne Yonemoto at TorranceJACL@gmail.com or (310) 266-3398.