Saturday, January 30th is Fred Korematsu Day, the birthday of Fred Korematsu, an American civil rights activist of Japanese descent who objected to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.
In 2010, the Governor of California signed the legislative bill establishing Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution on January 30 in perpetuity. This is the first state-wide day in U.S. history named after an Asian American. Korematsu’s growing legacy continues to inspire people across diverse communities and demonstrates the importance of speaking up to fight injustice.
The Fred T. Korematsu Institute is leading efforts to recognize Fred Korematsu in other states and also achieve a national Fred Korematsu Day to honor his legacy as a civil rights hero for all Americans. Since 2010 Hawaii, Virginia, Florida and New York have also established a day of recognition in honor of Fred Korematsu’s fight for justice and the importance of upholding our civil liberties and the Constitution.
Watch the 2021 Fred Korematsu Day Presentation celebrating the 10th Anniversary of Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution.
Learn more about his story, the curriculum for teachers & the work of his namesake organization here: korematsuinstitute.org
In celebration of Fred Korematsu Day, members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) released the following statements to honor him:
Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-27), CAPAC Chair:
“In one of America’s darkest hours, in the face of one of our most shameful policies, Fred Korematsu stood up for what is right despite an unjust Supreme Court ruling against him. His fight against the hateful imprisonment of over 120,000 innocent Japanese Americans during World War II served as a symbol of hope. By refusing to remain silent in the face of racism and injustice, he reminded us that we must remain steadfast in protecting the civil right and liberties of all Americans. Like so many Asian Americans who experienced prejudice and bigotry, Fred Korematsu believed American values could overcome the failures in American policies. And his example is one we must still follow today as xenophobia and prejudice continue to impact Asian Americans across the nation.
“Ultimately, Fred Korematsu’s fight was vindicated when the Federal Government apologized for the sin of Japanese imprisonment and the Supreme Court later overturned its ruling against him. But the work continues. As we work to undo the harm and damage the Trump Administration caused, Fred’s story is a constant reminder of the difference one person can make in fighting injustice. That is why I am so thrilled the Biden-Harris Administration is determined to implement policies and actions to help immigrants, religious minorities, and people of color thrive. As we commemorate Fred Korematsu on what would have been his 102nd birthday, let us continue to honor his legacy and reaffirm our commitment to opposing racism, discrimination and inequality in all forms.”
Congresswoman Grace Meng (NY-06), CAPAC First Vice Chair:
“Today we celebrate the civil rights hero, Fred Korematsu, who bravely fought injustice throughout his life. From challenging the legality of internment of Japanese Americans to advocating on behalf of Muslim inmates held at Guantanamo Bay, Fred Korematsu continued to combat racial prejudice and injustice throughout his life. As we honor the legacy of Fred Korematsu, let us draw inspiration from his commitment to stand against bigotry and discrimination.”
Congressman Mark Takano (CA-41), CAPAC Second Vice Chair:
“On Fred Korematsu Day, we honor a justice-seeker who forced America to reckon with the atrocities of Japanese American internment. His challenge to Executive Order 9066, and what we learned from it, was crucial in the fight for redress for the Japanese Americans who suffered through internment. As we honor the memory of this civil rights hero, may we all channel his spirit of justice and fight against oppression in all its forms.”
Congressman Ted Lieu (CA-33), CAPAC Whip:
“I’m proud to join my CAPAC colleagues in celebrating Fred Korematsu Day. Fred Korematsu was a brave, fearless fighter who stood up against the unjust and disgraceful internment of Japanese Americans in World War II. May his courage in the face of adversity continue to inspire us all to fight for a more equitable and just America.”
Congressman Kai Kahele (HI-02), Freshmen Representative:
“Fred Korematsu stood up against the racial injustice and the wrongful internment of thousands of Japanese Americans during World War II. Today, we remember his courage and celebrate his legacy by ensuring history never repeats itself. May we all continue to fight against discrimination in all forms.”
CAPAC Executive Board Members
Senator Mazie K. Hirono (HI):
“On Fred Korematsu Day, we celebrate the life of a courageous leader who stood up for the rights of Japanese Americans detained during World War II. Even when the federal government impinged on his own liberty, Fred fought to expand civil rights and seek justice in his own false criminal conviction. I will continue working to award Fred Korematsu with Congress’ highest civilian honor, an appropriate expression of gratitude for his constant advocacy for civil rights. His legacy continues to serve as a reminder that we all have a responsibility to defend justice and equality.”
Congressman Ed Case (HI-01):
“My thoughts turn again as every year to Fred Korematsu, first and foremost and American but imprisoned by his own country solely because of his ethnicity. At a time when we throw around the word “patriot” so broadly, Fred Korematsu’s quest for the justice we all owe to each other has earned him the right to be viewed through the lens of history as a true American patriot.”
Congressman Jimmy Gomez (CA-34):
“Eighty years ago, Fred Korematsu led a stand against one of the darkest and most horrific actions in U.S. history. His challenge to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, and his struggle to secure justice in the decades that followed, is a testament to his sacrifice, strength, and pride. He fought tirelessly against this institutional racism toward Japanese Americans and left a legacy for all of us to aspire to. The lessons of his activism are just as pressing today and teach us that we must be proactive in fighting racism, bias, violence, and hate to ensure our American values apply equally to everyone.”
Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland (WA-10):
“Civil rights activist Fred Korematsu is a hero who stood up against the unjust incarceration of over 120,000 Japanese Americans during world War II. Let’s honor his powerful legacy by committing to always speak out against injustice.”
CAPAC Associate Members
Congresswoman Deb Haaland (NM-01):
“Fred Korematsu is a national hero who dedicated his life to protecting the civil rights of all. Mr. Korematsu’s fight for the human rights of Japanese Americans unjustly incarcerated during WWII will continue to inspire everyone. It’s up to us to carry on his journey towards a more just and equitable country.”
Congressman Steven Horsford (NV-04):
“Fred Korematsu was a civil rights hero who stood up against the unconscionable internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Bravely facing down the full force of the government, Mr. Korematsu fought to end state-sponsored racism and protect the rights of all Americans. Today, as prejudice against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders rises during the COVID-19 pandemic, his work is especially important to remember. I’m proud to join my colleagues in the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus to honor Fred Korematsu’s legacy and lasting impact.”
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (NY-12):
“On this Fred Korematsu Day, what would have been the civil rights leader’s 102nd birthday, we honor his legacy by continuing his fight against racism, discrimination, intolerance, and xenophobia. To do so, we must recognize and contend with the stain on America’s history that was the internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. We cannot give back the time we stole from those interned, but we can pledge to learn from history and commit to never letting fear and racism dictate our government’s actions again.”
Congresswoman Katie Porter (CA-45):
“Today, we celebrate the courage and life of Fred Korematsu. At just 23, he refused to accept the unjust internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. His story reminds us that the fight for true equality is ongoing, and that we must never falter in the face of injustice.”
Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers, musicians and corporations. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman. She stars in and served as Executive Producer for the short independent films Hide and Seek, Balancing Act, Rom-Com Gone Wrong, Belongingness and When the World was Young. She is also the Executive Producer for The Cactus, The Language Lesson, The Writer and Cream and 2 Shugahs.
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