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On January 30, California, Hawai’i, Utah, Illinois, and Georgia will officially commemorate Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution. Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Virginia still have related legislation pending.

“Fred Korematsu is the first Asian American in U.S. history to have a statewide day named after him.” said his daughter and Executive Director of the nonprofit Fred T. Korematsu Institute, Karen Korematsu. “The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has also urged the President and Congress to establish Fred Korematsu Day as a national holiday.”

During World War II, Fred Korematsu refused to comply with Executive Order 9066 which incarcerated over 120,000 Japanese Americans, more than two-thirds of whom were US citizens like himself. After he was arrested and convicted, he appealed his case all the way to the US Supreme Court, which ruled against him in 1944 but then vacated the decision in 1983. Korematsu received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998, the highest civilian honor in the US.

“Fred Korematsu Day not only honors a great man, but also reminds us about our fragile democracy, which is only as strong as our the adherence to our constitutional principles,” said Asian American actor and civil rights activist George Takei who will be speaking at California’s Korematsu Day event. “I lived through the internment of Japanese Americans. I know firsthand that we cannot ever repeat that injustice.”

Fred T. Korematsu Institute has distributed over 5,000 Teaching Kits free of charge to educators in 49 states and six countries since 2011, and plans to continue expanding their educational outreach.

Bill Clinton, Fred Korematsu
President Clinton presents Fred Korematsu with a Presidential Medal of Freedom during a ceremony at the White House.Dennis Cook / AP file