President Bill Clinton presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Fred Korematsu in 1998. (AP File Photo)

The Japanese American National Museum posted the following message on Jan. 30.


Today is Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution. Fred Korematsu was born on Jan. 30, 1919 and each year on this day we celebrate a national civil rights hero.

In 1942, Fred Korematsu was a 23-year-old living in Oakland, Calif. He had trained to become a welder so that he could provide his skills to the U.S. war effort. Due to his Japanese descent, he lost employment shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, leading to the incarceration of over 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry, Korematsu defied the orders and went into hiding. He was discovered while walking down the street one day and arrested on the spot.

Korematsu took his case to the Supreme Court, which ultimately upheld his conviction, stating that the forced removal of Japanese Americans was justified due to “military necessity.” In 1983, a landmark coram nobis case overturned Korematsu’s conviction.

“I would like to see the government admit that they were wrong and do something about it so this will never happen again to any American citizen of any race, creed, or color.” — Fred Korematsu

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