The Senate of Virginia unanimously adopted House Joint Resolution 641 this week to designate Jan. 30 of each year, beginning in 2016, as “Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution in Virginia.”
The legislative measure, which was introduced by Del. Keam, had already passed the House of Delegates in January on a unanimous vote.
Fred Korematsu was a national civil rights leader, a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and an Asian American pioneer. Following the attacks on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, Korematsu became one of approximately 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry ordered by the U.S. government to be incarcerated in special prison camps for the duration of World War II.
At age 23, Korematsu refused to obey the military action issued under Executive Order 9066, which led to his arrest and conviction. He appealed his conviction all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which affirmed the legality of the government’s unprecedented scope of racial profiling based on “military necessity.”
Four decades later, in 1983, Korematsu’s case was re-opened and his criminal conviction was overturned by a federal district court. That same year, the Presidential Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians concluded that the federal government’s decision to send Japanese Americans to prison occurred because of “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.”
“Our nation’s history is full of unsung heroes who stood up to injustice to ensure that the promises embedded in our Constitution are not just empty words on paper,” said Keam.
“Fred Korematsu was an American hero whose actions deserve a prominent place in our history. By recognizing his birthday in Virginia – a state that played such a crucial role in drafting our Constitution – we will remind future generations of what Thomas Jefferson warned, that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance,” Keam continued.
The idea for a resolution designating Jan. 30 as Korematsu Day in Virginia was brought to Keam by Korematsu’s daughter, Karen, who heads the Korematsu Institute in San Francisco, Calif. The Institute works to educate the public about Americans who have suffered from prejudice, discrimination and civil rights injustices. More information about the Institute is available at http://korematsuinstitute.org/.
The text of the Virginia legislative resolution is below and can be found on the Legislative Information System’s website at http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?151+sum+HJ641.