About Us

The Fred T. Korematsu Institute remembers, instructs, and honors Americans who have suffered from prejudice, discrimination and civil rights injustices (particularly the Japanese Americans who were interned during World War II). The Institute works to keep these lessons alive so students can better understand their civil rights and civil liberties and use the Korematsu story as a concrete reference in linking the story of the Japanese American incarceration during World War II to the more well-known stories of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Cesar Chavez. The Fred T. Korematsu Institute is a fiscally sponsored project of Community Initiatives.

The Korematsu Institute education programs include:

  • Curriculum: Developing and distributing FREE curriculum about Fred Korematsu’s story, the Japanese American incarceration, Asian American history, and current civil rights issues, to classrooms around the United States
  • Fred Korematsu Day: Promoting Fred Korematsu Day community involvement through school curriculum, community events, and support for bill legislation and resolutions around the country
  • Film Festival: Hosting RightsFest, an annual pan-ethnic civil rights film festival

Leadership

  • Karen Korematsu, Executive Director
  • Peggy Saika, Advisory Committee
  • Debbie Ching, Advisory Committee
  • Evan Goldberg, Advisory Committee
  • Steele Willinger, Advisory Committee
  • Keith Kamisugi, Advisory Committee Chair

Organization

The Fred T. Korematsu Institute is a fiscally sponsored project of Community Initiatives. Since 1996, Community Initiatives has worked with individuals and groups to incubate new nonprofit ideas through fiscal sponsorship. This allows community-benefit projects a way to test and refine their ideas without having to incorporate and obtain tax-exempt status on their own.

History

The Asian Law Caucus, together with Karen Korematsu, the daughter of Fred Korematsu, co-founded the Korematsu Institute on April 30, 2009 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the reversal of Korematsu’s conviction. The following year, the Institute played a major role in convincing the state of California to pass “Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution,” the first day in US history named after an Asian American. Fred Korematsu Day is celebrated every January 30th, on Mr. Korematsu’s birthday.

About Fred Korematsu

In 1942, twenty-three year-old Fred Korematsu refused to report to the government’s incarceration camps for Japanese Americans. He was arrested and quickly convicted of defying the government’s unjust order, but decided to take his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. He was denied his freedom by the nation’s highest court, which validated the wholesale imprisonment of Japanese American citizens on the basis of “military necessity.” In 1983-1984, the Asian Law Caucus was a key member of the legal team that re-opened Fred’s case and convinced a federal court to overturn his conviction. In the last decades of his life, Fred Korematsu continued to fight for Japanese American redress, and spoke out to protect the civil rights of Muslim and Arab Americans after 9/11. He remained an activist until his death in 2005. Fred’s life-long struggle for justice serves as a reminder of the need to protect civil liberties for all people (read more about Fred Korematsu here).