January 28, 2011
State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Notes
California's First Fred Korematsu Day
SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today urged all Californians to observe the first annual Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution on Sunday, January 30, 2011.
"Fred Korematsu bravely resisted the grave injustice that began with the incarceration of Japanese Americans following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and ultimately, he prevailed and helped to right one of history's great wrongs," Torlakson said. "I urge Californians to take a moment this Sunday to study the case of Fred Korematsu so that we may learn from history and never repeat the shameful moments of our nation's past."
Legislation cosponsored by Assembly members Warren Furutani (D-South Los Angeles County) and Marty Block (D-San Diego) officially made January 30 Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution.
"As the first day in the United States named after an Asian American, Fred Korematsu Day is a historic milestone for all Americans," says Ling Woo Liu, Director of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute for Civil Rights and Education. "Fred Korematsu Day has opened up a learning opportunity for California students to better understand the importance of protecting civil liberties."
Korematsu was born in Oakland, California in 1919. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, he defied President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066 that authorized the U.S. military to forcibly remove more than 120,000 people, mostly of Japanese descent, from their homes and into incarceration camps throughout the U.S. Two-thirds of the people were American citizens.
Korematsu was arrested and convicted of violating the federal order. He lost appeals all the way to the Supreme Court. Four decades later, after a legal historian discovered evidence proving that U.S. intelligence agencies knew that Japanese American posed no military threat to the country during World War II, Korematsu's conviction was overturned in federal court.
"After my father's conviction was overturned in 1983, his focus and mission was education," says Karen Korematsu, daughter of Fred Korematsu and co-founder of the Korematsu Institute. "He believed it was important to teach about his struggle for justice and the Japanese American incarceration so that the mistakes of history would not be repeated in the future. This day enables students to learn and discuss the lessons of American history and their relevance to current discussions regarding civil liberties and the Constitution."
Korematsu went on to champion the cause of civil liberties, not only seeking redress for Japanese Americans who were wrongfully incarcerated, but also traveling the country to advocate for the civil rights of other victims of excessive government action, especially after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He 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.
To learn more, please visit the Fred T. Korematsu Institute for Civil Rights and Education [http://korematsuinstitute.org/] Web site.
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Tom Torlakson —
State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5206, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100