Virginia will commemorate its first statewide Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution this year, becoming the sixth state to officially commemorate Jan. 30 this way as civil rights advocates continue to push for a national holiday.
“Last year, the Virginia State Legislature unanimously passed a resolution to designate January 30 of each year, beginning this year, as Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution in Virginia,” Karen Korematsu, founder and executive director of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute and daughter of the late Fred Korematsu, told NBC News. “The Korematsu Institute worked with Delegate Mark Keam to draft and pass the resolution.”
Jan. 30 is officially recognized as Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution in California, Hawaii, Utah, Illinois, Georgia, and Virginia. Michigan and Pennsylvania are still considering legislative recognition.
“I will be meeting with Michigan legislators this week to encourage them to pass the resolution,” Korematsu said. “Also, the University of Michigan law school is hosting an event this week to recognize my father, which is timely given backlash of anti-Muslim bigotry that is reminiscent of the anti-Japanese sentiment in the 1980s that led to the brutal murder of Chinese American Vincent Chin in Detroit.”
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 U.S. citizens like himself. After he was arrested and convicted, he appealed his case to the Supreme Court, which ruled against him in 1944 but vacated the decision in 1983. Korematsu received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998, the highest civilian honor in the United States.
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has recommended that National Fred Korematsu Day be established as a national holiday.