Fred Korematsu Google Doodle by artist Sophie Diao

Fred Korematsu Google Doodle by artist Sophie Diao

In honor of a new day of remembrance in Arizona, all are invited to an event in one week celebrating the life and achievements of Fred T. Korematsu.

On Tuesday, January 30, the Arizona Asian American Bar Association hosts a reception honoring the “Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution.” It will be from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. at District American Kitchen in the Sheraton Grand Hotel, 340 N. 3rd St, Phoenix, AZ 85004.

The event is free and open to all, but an RSVP is requested. Write to Thomas Chiang at tchiang8@gmail.com

The honor and event are possible because Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey proclaimed Tuesday, January 30, 2018 to be Fred T. Korematsu Day in Arizona. At the reception, the AAABA board will present the proclamation to Fred’s son, Ken – a well-known speaker on the Supreme Court case United States v. Korematsu.

According to the Fred Korematsu Institute, Arizona is the seventh state to declare this day of commemoration by proclamation. Four others – the first being California – established the day in perpetuity via legislation.

In case you know little about the matters that underlie that case, here is information from event organizers and those who advocated for the commemoration:

The following gives a short background on Fred T. Korematsu and the Japanese Internment Camps in Arizona. On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. EO 9066 authorized internment camps for people, including American-born citizens of Japanese, German, and Italian ancestry. Approximately 3,200 resident aliens of Italian descent were arrested and more than 300 were interned. Approximately 11,000 persons of German descent were arrested and more than 5,000 were interned. Some of the persons of German descent were American citizens.

Japanese Americans in the Western Defense Area were ordered to report in much larger numbers. More than 121,000 people of Japanese descent were interned. Two-thirds were American born citizens. One fourth of those interned – more than 30,000 of the Japanese Americans – were moved from California and interned in Arizona. More than 13,000 were interned near Phoenix on the Gila River Indian Reservation, and more than 17,000 were interned at the Poston Relocation Center on the Colorado River Indian Tribe Reservation. The camps were opened in 1942 and closed in 1946.

Fred T. Korematsu with the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Fred T. Korematsu with the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Fred T. Korematsu was one of the many American-born citizens ordered to report to internment camps. He refused – and was arrested, prosecuted, and convicted for his refusal. In a landmark decision, six of President Roosevelt’s eight appointees to the United States Supreme Court upheld Mr. Korematsu’s conviction, which stood until 1983. See Korematsu v. U.S., 324 U.S. 885 (1945). Almost 40 years later, a federal judge ruled that in 1945, the government’s lawyers knowingly gave false information to the Supreme Court. Because the false information had a material impact on the Supreme Court’s earlier ruling, Mr. Korematsu’s conviction was vacated by Judge Marilyn Hall Patel of U.S. District Court in San Francisco. See Korematsu v. U.S., 584 F. Supp. 1406 (N.D. Cal. 1984).

Judge Patel’s ruling cleared Korematsu’s name, but was incapable of overturning the Supreme Court’s decision.

Fred Korematsu was able to testify at that hearing:

“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. … If anyone should do any pardoning, I should be the one pardoning the government for what they did to the Japanese-American people.”

Peter Irons described Korematsu’s ending statement during the case as the most powerful statement he’d ever heard from anyone. He found the statement as empowering as Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

President Bill Clinton awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States, to Korematsu in 1998.

You may recall that Google recognized Fred Korematsu Day in 2017 with its “Google Doodle” by artist Sophie Diao. It featured Korematsu wearing his Presidential Medal of Freedom, internment camps at his back, while surrounded by cherry blossoms – flowers that have come to be symbols of peace and friendship between the US and Japan.