To honor and remember the life of a man who advocated for civil liberties and opposed the unjust internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, Assembly Democrats Raj Mukherji and Anthony Verrelli sponsor a resolution that would designate an annual ‘Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution.’
The resolution (AJR-98) would designate his birthday, January 30, as a day to honor Fred Korematsu and educate residents about his perseverance and dedication in advocating for the civil rights of all Americans.
Korematsu was an American born to Japanese immigrants whose eligibility to serve in the U.S. military during the second World War was denied due to his heritage. When Korematsu was later arrested for refusing to comply with the order that forced Japanese Americans into internment camps, his conviction was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1944 case Korematsu v. United States. That conviction made it difficult for him to find work after the war.
However, Korematsu’s successful petition to have his conviction overturned nearly 40 years later and his civil-rights activism ultimately helped influence Congress’ eventual passage of the ‘Civil Liberties Act of 1988.’ The federal legislation recognized the grave injustice of the forced incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans.
Throughout his life, Korematsu continued to advocate for civil liberties by speaking out against racial discrimination, and was awarded the Presidential Media of Freedom.
Upon the measure unanimously passing the full Assembly on Monday, the sponsors issued the following statements:
“For years, Fred Korematsu paid the price for refusing to comply with the despicable imprisonment of Japanese Americans during World War II. He took a lonely stand in defense of civil rights and our Constitution, resulting in one of the worst Supreme Court precedents in the history of our democracy,” said Assemblyman Mukherji (D-Hudson). “By passing this resolution, today we salute Mr. Korematsu’s tireless efforts for vindication. We also salute the incredible patriotism, heroism and valiant service of so many Japanese Americans – including those of the decorated 442nd Regimental Combat Team – in defense of our country, despite the fact that we rounded 120,000 of them up like cattle and imprisoned them based solely on their race.”
“Despite the adversity he faced, Fred Korematsu refused to give up. His tireless advocacy on behalf of those impacted by racial discrimination was influential in compelling our country to recognize the injustice of its past actions,” said Assemblyman Verrelli (D-Mercer, Hunterdon). “This day will commemorate his life and serve as a reminder to us all that we must oppose inequality and injustice wherever we see it.”
The resolution now heads to the Senate.