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Fred Korematsu becomes first Asian American in Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery civil rights exhibition

From left to right: National Portrait Gallery director Martin Sullivan, Korematsu Institute director Ling Woo Liu, Korematsu Institute co-founder Karen Korematsu, Congresswoman Doris Matsui, former US Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta, JACL National executive director Floyd Mori, GPhA CEO and former Leadership Conference on Civil Rights executive director Ralph Neas, Congressman Mike Honda. Photo courtesy of JACL.

From left to right: National Portrait Gallery director Martin Sullivan, Korematsu Institute director Ling Woo Liu, Korematsu Institute co-founder Karen Korematsu, Congresswoman Doris Matsui, former US Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta, JACL National executive director Floyd Mori, GPhA CEO and former Leadership Conference on Civil Rights executive director Ralph Neas, Congressman Mike Honda. Photo courtesy of JACL.

On February 2, civil rights icon Fred T. Korematsu became the first Asian American featured in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery permanent exhibition, “The Struggle for Justice.” Two 1940s-era original photographs of Korematsu were presented on February 2 at 9:30 a.m. at the Portrait Gallery in a private event featuring speakers including the Honorable Norman Y. Mineta, former US Secretary of Transportation, Congresswoman Judy Chu, chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, Congressman Mike Honda, Congressman Doris Matsui, Ling Woo Liu, director of the Korematsu Institute, Karen Korematsu, co-founder of the Korematsu Institute and Martin Sullivan, director of the National Portrait Gallery. The photographs are now available for public view.


The event took place just three days after the second annual Fred Korematsu Day, an official day of special significance passed in the state of California in 2010. Celebrated every January 30, on Korematsu’s birthday, Fred Korematsu Day is the first day in U.S. history named after an Asian American.

To see additional photos of the historic photo presentation and reception, click here.

Fred T. Korematsu. Hand-colored gelatin silver print, c. 1940. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of the Fred T. Korematsu Family.

Fred T. Korematsu. Hand-colored gelatin silver print, c. 1940. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of the Fred T. Korematsu Family.

The National Portrait Gallery’s “The Struggle for Justice” exhibition opened in 2010 and features many images of individuals who have worked on behalf of civil rights, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Eunice Kennedy Shriver and César Chávez. The museum, which drew in one million visitors last year, is the first museum not specifically focused on the Japanese American experience to include Mr. Korematsu’s story. To date, the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, the Japanese American Museum of San Jose, CA, the Manzanar Interpretive Center in Independence, CA, and the Heart Mountain Interpretive Learning Center in Powell, WY all feature Mr. Korematsu in their exhibits.

(For more information about the museums that include Korematsu’s story, click here)