Franklin Delano Roosevelt

NEW YORK — Eighty years ago on Feb. 19, 1942, 74 days after Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which led to the removal of civil rights and forced incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans.

In keeping with the sentiments of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt — who early on acknowledged the wrongdoings of this policy — the Roosevelt Institute posthumously honored civil rights activist Fred T. Korematsu with the 2021 Freedom Medal this past fall; Korematsu’s challenge of Executive Order 9066 went all the way to the US Supreme Court, and his advocacy for reparations has inspired generations of activists.

On this Day of Remembrance, the Roosevelt Institute shares the following reflections:


Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, board chair of the Roosevelt Institute and granddaughter of FDR: “While I cannot undo the harm caused by this forced incarceration policy, I can acknowledge its cruelty and restate my family’s commitment to historical repair and redress. This past fall I was honored to highlight the courageous efforts of Mr. Korematsu and thus publicly acknowledge and apologize for the harm Executive Order 9066 caused Japanese Americans.”

Watch Anna Eleanor Roosevelt’s conversation with Korematsu’s daughter, Dr. Karen Korematsu, at the Four Freedoms Awards here:

Felicia Wong, president and CEO of the Roosevelt Institute: “What Mr. Korematsu understood well was that our nation must learn from FDR’s misguided policy choices: There is no justice without racial justice. As a Chinese American, I take this day to remember and honor all of the Japanese Americans who were incarcerated, and to stand in solidarity with those in my community facing racist assaults as a result of COVID-19 and increased anti-Asian violence.”

FDR Library Acting Director William Harris spoke to historian Greg Robinson, author of several books on Japanese American incarceration, including “By Order of the President” and “A Tragedy of Democracy.” This program was rebroadcast on the Day of Remembrance, Feb. 19.

Read from the institute’s blog: “Racial Justice: A Foundation for FDR’s Four Freedoms in 2021” by Roosevelt Institute research associate Mariama Badjie explains how the work of last year’s Four Freedoms recipients “reflects the emerging worldview that racial justice can no longer be a political afterthought.”

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