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Fred Korematsu: I Am an American!

Fred Korematsu was an American citizen and the son of Japanese immigrants who lived in the San Francisco Bay Area. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt ordered Japanese-Americans from the West Coast to be put in internment camps. Korematsu refused to evacuate but was arrested, convicted, and sent to the Topaz Internment Camp in Utah. With the help of the American Civil Liberties Union's Ernest Besig, Korematsu unsuccessfully sued the U.S. government for violating his constitutional rights. Years later, law professor Peter Irons discovered new evidence and Korematsu re-opened the case. Thirty-nine years after Korematsu's first arrest, a federal judge reversed Korematsu's conviction. In 1998, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Korematsu's civil liberties case bears renewed relevance today.

My Story

No Place in the Union. I was a welder at Moore Drydock and Shipyard and I was doing so well that ... (1:02)
Internment. A guard came to me there and said "You got a visitor." ... (0:57)
Korematsu vs. United States. Judge said that I violated the military order, you know ... (0:53)
Disappointment. In 1944, in Detroit, I received a letter from Mr. Besig and there he told me ... (0:47)


Facing the Government. Realizing that the surveillance and targeting they had experienced was an infringement on their rights under the Constitution, Fred Korematsu, Vincent Hallinan, Abdeen Jabara, John Fife and George Christian challenged the United States Government. In doing so they incurred the government's wrath and power to intimidate.