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Photo by Carlo de la Cruz

Photo by Carlo de la Cruz

Karen Korematsu

Founder & Executive Director

Karen Korematsu is the Founder and Executive Director of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute and the daughter of the late Fred T. Korematsu. In 2009, on the 25th anniversary of the reversal of Fred’s WWII U.S. Supreme Court conviction, Karen established the Fred T. Korematsu Institute.  In May 2013, Karen became executive director of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute and led its transition in July 2014 to become an independent organization fiscally sponsored by Community Initiatives.

Since her father’s passing in 2005, Karen has carried on Fred’s legacy as a civil rights advocate, public speaker and public educator. She shares her passion for social justice and education at K-12 public and private schools, colleges and universities, law schools, teachers’ conferences and organizations across the country.

One of Karen’s most significant accomplishments was working with Assembly Member Warren Furutani to successfully establish in 2011 a perpetual “Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution” for the state of California on January 30. Fred Korematsu is the first Asian American in U.S. history who has been honored with a statewide day.

Karen’s work, and her father’s legacy, extends to advocating for civil liberties for all communities, and she addresses current issues that draw lessons from the past. She has signed on to amicus briefs in several cases opposing violations of constitutional rights arising after 9/11, including in Odah v. United States, Turkman v. Ashcroft, Hedges v. Obama, and Hassan v. City of New York. She authored the foreword to “Patriot Acts, Narratives of Post-9/11 Injustice” in 2011.

Karen is a lead member the National Advisory Boards of both the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality at Seattle University School of Law and the Fred T. Korematsu Professor of Law and Social Justice at the William S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawai’i at Manoa. In 2013, she was appointed as an Advisory Member to the California Task Force on K-12 Civic Learning by the Honorable Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye, California Supreme Court Chief Justice and Chair of the Judicial Council, and Tom Torlakson, California State Superintendent of Public Instruction. She is a current board member for Asian Americans Advancing Justice-AAJC in Washington, D.C., and a former member of the Board of Directors for Marin Ballet and Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus. In 2015, Karen was invited as the first non-lawyer member of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA).


For speaking engagement requests, additional information is required; please complete the Speaker & Public Engagement Request Form.


Select Awards and Honors:

* ATTSS/UFT Greater Metropolitan New York 2015 Isidore Starr Civic Engagement Award

* Bentley School “Freedom Award”

* Iranian American Bar Association of Northern California’s “Commitment to Social Justice” Award

* Council of American Islamic Relations-San Francisco Bay Area’s “Promoting Justice” Award

Select Articles/Interviews

* Judicial Council of California, Center for Judiciary Education and Research: Continuing the Dialogue broadcast (pre-recorded) on "A Legacy of Civil Wrongs and Rights: The Fred T. Korematsu Story,” May 2015.

* History Channel: Interview for TV show “10 Things You Don’t Know About,” on “Japanese American Imprisonment during WWII and Fred Korematsu,” August 30, 2014.

* NPR Talk of the Nation radio interview, “The Legacy of Civil Rights Leader Fred Korematsu,” January 31, 2012.

* CBS5 TV Interview, “Bay Area Honors Man Who Refused WWII Internment,” January 30, 2011.

* KQED Radio Interview, “Wherever There’s a Fight,” July 28, 2010.

* Rafu Shimpo Op-Ed, “The Purpose of (Ed) Chen,” May 19, 2010.

* KQED Radio Interview, “Looking Back at Japanese American Internment,” December 5, 2007.

Select Speaking Events

* Brown University

* California Council for the Social Studies

* Clinton School of Public Service, University of Arkansas

* Fourth District Court of Appeals, Riverside, CA

* Hawaii State Social Studies Teachers Conference

* National Council for the Social Studies

* National Forum on Education

* New York State Social Studies Teachers Conference

* Northwestern University School of Law

* Seattle University School of Law

* University of California, Berkeley

* University of California, Davis

* University of Michigan