Virginia commemorated its first statewide Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution on Jan. 30 in recognition of the late civil rights leader.
Virginia is the sixth state to officially pay tribute to Korematsu, who is remembered for his Supreme Court case that challenged the constitutionality of the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Virginia joins California, Hawaii, Georgia, Illinois and Utah. Michigan and Pennsylvania are currently considering legislative recognition.
The Virginia State Legislature unanimously passed the resolution, which was drafted by Delegate Mark Keam, a Democrat representing the 35th District (Fairfax County) and the Korematsu Institute, headed by Karen Korematsu, Fred Korematsu’s daughter.
During World War II, Korematsu refused to comply with Executive Order 9066, which incarcerated more than 120,000 Japanese Americans, two-thirds of whom were U.S. citizens. After he was arrested and convicted, Korematsu appealed his case to the Supreme Court, which ruled against him in 1944 but vacated the decision in 1983.
He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
In a Facebook post, Keam said, “Today, Jan. 30, is the first annual Fred T. Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution in Virginia. Today also would have been Mr. Korematsu’s 97th birthday. . . . Fred Korematsu was an American hero whose actions deserve a prominent place in our history. By recognizing his birthday in Virginia — a state that played such a crucial role in drafting our Constitution — we remind future generations of what Thomas Jefferson warned, that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.”’
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has recommended that National Fred Korematsu Day be established as a national holiday. n