Fred Korematsu was a Japanese American civil rights activist who was born on January 30, 1919, in Oakland, California. He is best known for his resistance to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, which led to a landmark Supreme Court case that helped to establish the civil rights of all Americans.
Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the United States government issued Executive Order 9066, which authorized the forced removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans living on the West Coast. Korematsu, who had refused to comply with the order and instead went into hiding, was eventually arrested and convicted of violating the exclusion order.
With the help of civil rights lawyers, Korematsu challenged his conviction in court, arguing that the internment of Japanese Americans violated their constitutional rights. The case, Korematsu v. United States, reached the Supreme Court in 1944, which ruled against Korematsu in a 6-3 decision. The ruling upheld the constitutionality of the internment camps, but the decision has since been widely criticized as a violation of civil rights and a dark moment in American history.
Korematsu continued to fight for civil rights after the war, and in 1983, he brought his case back to court to challenge his original conviction. The district court overturned the conviction, and in 1998, President Bill Clinton awarded Korematsu the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States.
Korematsu's life and work serve as a powerful reminder of the importance of upholding civil rights and resisting discrimination. His legacy has inspired generations of activists who have fought for justice and equality, and his courage in the face of adversity has earned him a prominent place in American history. Korematsu passed away on March 30, 2005, but his memory continues to be honored through the annual Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution, which is celebrated in California on January 30.