New Jersey Declares Jan. 30 "Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution"
Fred Korematsu Fought Against Japanese Internment in the Supreme Court… and Lost. Nearly 75 years later, the infamous decision was finally overturned. Jan. 30 will forever celebrate Korematsu’s efforts.
Governor Phil Murphy yesterday (January 30), signed a joint resolution (AJR98) designating January 30 of each year as “Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution" in New Jersey.
The day of recognition honors the legacy of Fred Korematsu, an American civil rights activist of Japanese heritage who fought against the wrongful incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.
New Jersey’s Governor was joined today by Dr. Karen Korematsu, daughter of Fred Korematsu and Founder and Executive Director of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute, legislators, and advocates to commemorate New Jersey’s first Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution, which will be celebrated annually on Mr. Korematsu’s birthday, January 30.
“Today, Jan. 30, 2023, is a great day for the State of NJ—it is a great day for humankind!” said Takeshi Furumoto, internment camp survivor and human rights activist. “To not only recognize the wrongs of the past but by recognizing this through legislation vows not to repeat it. As a survivor, by testifying and passing this bill, and getting a unanimous vote of approval by the State Senate and Assembly, gives me hope for the future of America!”
Primary sponsors of the legislation include Senator Joseph Lagana, and Assemblymembers Raj Mukerji, Anthony Verrelli, and Brandon Umba.
In 1942, at the age of 23, Fred T. Korematsu refused to go to the government’s incarceration camps for Japanese Americans. After he was arrested and convicted of defying the government’s order, he appealed his case all the way to the United States Supreme Court. In 1944, a divided Supreme Court ruled against him, arguing that the incarceration was justified due to military necessity.
“I grew up in Maywood and attended Hackensack High School several decades ago. But despite an otherwise excellent education, I was never taught about the internment camps where Japanese Americans like my mom, Fred Korematsu, and 120,000 others were detained. Fred Korematsu had the courage to stand up to the country that he loved and challenge it to be better. He is a national hero and an inspiration to the next generation of Asian American activists who continue the fight for civil rights today. We are pleased to see Gov. Murphy make New Jersey the next state to honor Korematsu’s contributions to our country and ensure that our students learn from his example of civic engagement,” said Phil Tajitsu Nash, board co-president of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF).
In 1983, with new evidence, a pro-bono legal team re-opened Korematsu’s 40-year-old case on the basis of government misconduct. On November 10, 1983, Korematsu’s conviction was overturned in a federal court in San Francisco.
In 1998, Korematsu received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from President Bill Clinton. And in 2018, the Supreme Court formally repudiated its 1944 decision, which today is widely regarded as one of the most unjust decisions in the history of the Court.
“Congratulations New Jersey!” said Dr. Karen Korematsu, daughter of Fred Korematsu and Founder and Executive Director, Fred T. Korematsu Institute. “This demonstrates how one person’s brave stance can change the lives of many others. Let us always remember and honor the memory of my father so that honor and justice will shine forever.”