Boise Weekly: Who Is That in the Google Doodle? Get to Know Fred Korematsu

by George Prentice


Who's that distinguished-looking gentleman on the Google homepage this morning? Fred Korematsu, who was born 98 years ago today.

Korematsu was born to Japanese immigrant parents in Oakland, Calif., but when President Franklin Roosevelt signed an executive order in February 1942 sending people of Japanese descent to live in internment camps—including at the Minidoka War Relocation Center in Idaho—Korematsu went into hiding. Ultimately, he was caught and imprisoned in Utah. The American Civil Liberties Union took up his cause and advanced it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court ruled against Korematsu, sending him and his family to the Central Utah War Relocation Center until the end of World War II.

It wasn't until 1983 that Korematsu's conviction was overturned. He lobbied hard for an official apology from the U.S. government to the thousands of Japanese Americans who had been imprisoned during the war. Finally, in 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed into law a measure providing reparations and redress to those detained during the war. Korematsu was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998 and, while he died at his California home in 2005, his birthday is now an official state holiday in Hawaii, Virginia, California and Florida.

In celebration of Korematsu's birthday, Google announced it would pledge $4 million to several nonprofit organizations to support their efforts fighting President Donald Trump's executive order banning select immigrants from entering the U.S.