Honoring Fred Korematsu

Fred Korematsu was one of the many Japanese-Americans living on the West Coast during World War II. Born in Oakland, California to Japanese immigrants, Korematsu attended public schools, participated in sports, and worked in his family's plant nursery. Still, he faced discrimination because of his ancestry. Restaurants refused to serve him, barbers wouldn't cut his hair, and the US military classified him as a "enemy alien" even though he was an American citizen.

Things just got worse following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Four months later, Korematsu's family was sent to Tanforan Racetrack where they awaited transfer to an internment camp. Korematsu refused to go. He was, after all, an American citizen, and didn't think the "government would go as far as to include American citizens to be interned without a hearing," he later recalled.

However in May 1942, Korematsu was arrested. He was found guilty of violating military orders and sent toTanforan to await internment. With the help of the Northern California ACLU, Korematsu appealed his case to the U.S. Supreme Court - and lost in a 6 to 3 decision - in 1944. The government argued his internment was not based on racism and that the Army had proof that Japanese residents were signaling enemy ships and prone to disloyalty. Four decades later, his conviction was invalidated by a federal judge on factual grounds. Research had uncovered Justice Department documents stating that the government’s evidence contained “intentional falsehoods” about the security threat.

In 1998, Korematsu was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and in 2011 - on January 30 - California celebrated the first Fred Korematsu Day.

To learn more about Fred Korematsu & civil liberties in a time of war, try the following resources:


Honoring Martin Luther King

While I am a few days late in posting this tribute, I can't imagine a better one. The video above was produced by Dennis Noack, an eighteen year-old senior at Beaverton, Oregon's Arts & Communication Magnet Academy for the community's 10th annual celebration honoring the Civil Rights leader's legacy.


Let the Word Go Forth

Fifty one years ago, President John F. Kennedy delivered one of the most memorable inaugural addresses in American history. In honor of the event, more than three dozen people - ranging from Congressman John Lewis and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to General Colin Powell and former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown - repeated its words, creating a powerful video that challenges a new generation to serve their country and the world.

To learn more about President Kennedy's inauguration and its anniversary, try the following resources:


The Emancipation Proclamation

On this day in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the final Emancipation Proclamation, ending slavery in the rebelling states. A preliminary proclamation had been issued in September 1862, following the Union victory at the Battle of Antietam in Maryland. The act signaled an important shift in the Union's Civil War aims, expanding the goal of the war from preservation of the Union to include the eradication of slavery. Because the Proclamation applied only in ten states that were still in rebellion in 1863, Lincoln also urged the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment. Congress passed it by the necessary 2/3 vote in February 1865 and it was ratified by the states by December 1865.

To learn more about the Emancipation Proclamation, try the following resources:

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