Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Fred Korematsu's final resting place

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.


18 comments:

  1. Thank you for bringing this to light.
    As an American citizen I always cringe when I learn something more about this internment of Japanese Americans.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Certainly a bit of history I have new. Informative but very sad. Glad that he lived to be vindicated and honored.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The internment of the Japanese (and others) is a shameful period in both our countries histories. I am glad he lived long enough to be exonerated.

    ReplyDelete
  4. What an amazingly brave man to fight for what was right in a time of suh fear and suspicion.

    Herding Cats

    ReplyDelete
  5. Nice memorial to this man. :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. What an incredibly powerful post. The Japanese internment has always been a dark spot in history in my opinion, but I know that many that lived during that age don't agree, it is still a touchy subject. Terrific post.

    ReplyDelete
  7. There is a very nice museum/visitor center at the internment camp at Manzanar, CA. (Hwy 395) that really gives one an insight as to how they were forced to live. I assume that is a replica of his Medal of Freedom on the headstone. Nice read and thanks for sharing it.

    ReplyDelete
  8. In earlier days I would have said how shocking it is to read that the internment order was upheld by the
    Supreme Court. But I no longer think that way.

    ReplyDelete
  9. In my eyes, Korematsu is a hero. A man who stands for truth and integrity, for rule of law. Has anything changed much? Then the lies to the Supreme Court; more recently the lies to the UN. Then Japanese internment camps; now Guantanamo Bay. The xenophobic thrust against immigrants continues to rage. Sigh. A powerful, yet sad, post, Carolyn.

    ReplyDelete
  10. What a powerful story of bravery and courage during difficult times and then beyond. Thanks for bringing this hero to our attention. How wonderful that his children/grandchildren were able to hear of his bravery before he died.

    Bises,
    Genie

    ReplyDelete
  11. Great addition to the meme. Frank Ogawa (that Ogawa Plaza at city hall is named for) and his family were interned at Topaz, and their daughter was born and died there at the age of two and a half.

    ReplyDelete
  12. He was a brave man and I am glad he was rehabilitated in the end. Nice story.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Our world needs more brave men like him.
    What a powerful story! ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  14. Interesting. His Supreme Court case is famous but I knew nothing about him as an individual.

    ReplyDelete
  15. There is a wonderful movie about the subject whose name I can't recall and I can't even remember who the director was.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Farewell to Manzanar... was fortunate to have read that back in high school days. From our treatment of Native Americans over the past 400 years to the internment of American citizens of Japanese origin during the war, and the lies that took us into Iraq where uncountable numbers of civilians were killed... etc, etc, it just goes on and on. And many people do not like to be reminded of such subjects, as they are rather at odds with the American Dream.

    ReplyDelete