Fred Korematsu was born in Oakland in 1919. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Executive Order 9066 was instituted which orchestrated the removal of all Japanese (including American citizens) to relocation camps in the Southwest deserts. No due process hearings were held, no trials were held, and no distinction was made between loyal citizens and possible supporters of the Japanese Empire. The property they left behind was either guarded by faithful friends or often stolen by unscrupulous neighbors. Fred protested these actions and went into hiding as an act of resistance. He eventually was caught and sent to Topaz, Utah. The legality of the internment order was upheld by the United States Supreme Court. He ultimately returned to Oakland to raise his family.
Korematsu's conviction was overturned in the 1980s after the
disclosure of new evidence, challenging the necessity of the Japanese
internment, which had been withheld from the courts by the U.S.
government during the war.
These documents revealed that the
military had lied to the Supreme Court, and that government lawyers had
willingly made false arguments. His adult children were shocked to learn of their father's activism and early legal battles as he never talked about it after the courts upheld his conviction of resisting the internment orders.
In 1998 Korematsu was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton. Later in life Korematsu reinvigorated his social activism and advocated for rule of law and the protection of immigrant rights, especially for Muslim citizens post 9/11. Recently the Smithsonian announced the inclusion of Korematsu's portrait in the museum's collection.
Korematsu died in 2005 and is now buried in Mt. View Cemetery with a large granite rock marking his grave. To me the granite represents the strength and endurance of his principles. The flowers laid at the right side of his tombstone include a note of thanks from an admirer who was inspired by the history of Korematsu's civil rights struggles. His life work is admired by area progressives, but he remains largely unknown to local citizens.
Linking to Taphophile Tragics.
Civil Rights Monument
4 weeks ago