Mental Health Strike at Kaiser Oakland - 01/01/2024 at 7pm - Learn More >>

Fred Korematsu

Fred Korematsu was a civil rights activist who resisted the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

Born in Oakland to immigrant parents wh ocame to California through Angel Island, Korematsu had a typical American childhood – save for the anti-Asian sentiment he experienced in the years leading up to World War II.

The bombing of Pearl Harbor made it worse. When FDR signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the imprisonment of individuals of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast, Korematsu’s family complied, but 22-year-old Fred refused and went into hiding. He was soon arrested for failure to report.

In prison Korematsu was visited by an ACLU lawyer who wanted to help him fight his arrest. The case ultimately made it to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1944, which ruled 6-3 that Korematsu’s detention had been a “military necessity.”

Nearly four decades later, a team of volunteer attorneys with new evidence successfully petitioned to reopen the case in federal court. In 1983, a judge overturned Korematsu’s previous conviction.

Korematsu passed away in 2005 at age 86. His legacy lives on in the Fred T. Korematsu Institute for Civil Rights and Education, a nonprofit organization founded in 2009 by the Asian Law Caucus and Korematsu’s daughter, Karen.

More from NUHW


Change-makers wanted!
Join our team