Things just got worse following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Four months later, Korematsu's family was sent to Tanforan Racetrack where they awaited transfer to an internment camp. Korematsu refused to go. He was, after all, an American citizen, and didn't think the "government would go as far as to include American citizens to be interned without a hearing," he later recalled.
However in May 1942, Korematsu was arrested. He was found guilty of violating military orders and sent toTanforan to await internment. With the help of the Northern California ACLU, Korematsu appealed his case to the U.S. Supreme Court - and lost in a 6 to 3 decision - in 1944. The government argued his internment was not based on racism and that the Army had proof that Japanese residents were signaling enemy ships and prone to disloyalty. Four decades later, his conviction was invalidated by a federal judge on factual grounds. Research had uncovered Justice Department documents stating that the government’s evidence contained “intentional falsehoods” about the security threat.
In 1998, Korematsu was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and this year - on January 30 - California celebrated the first Fred Korematsu Day.
To learn more about Fred Korematsu & civil liberties in a time of war, try the following resources:
- A More Perfect Union (Smithsonian)
- Children of the Camps (PBS)
- Civil Liberties in Wartime (PBS)
- Fred T. Korematsu Institute for Civil Rights & Education
- He Said No to Internment (New York Times)
- Korematsu v. United States (Landmark Cases)
- Of Civil Rights & Wrongs (PBS)
- Photographs of Japanese American Internment (Library of Congress)