Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution is the first day in U.S. history named after an Asian American. It is celebrated every January 30th on Mr. Korematsu’s birthday. The Fred Korematsu Day bill, AB 1775, was signed into law by former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on September 23, 2010. Fred Korematsu Day is a day of special significance, when schools across the state are encouraged to remember the life of Fred Korematsu and recognize the importance of preserving civil liberties.
The bill was co-sponsored by Assemblymember Warren Furutani (D-South Los Angeles County) and Assemblymember Marty Block (D-San Diego). The Korematsu Institute worked closely with the office of Asm. Furutani to draft the language of the bill, and played a leading role in gathering support letters from more than 50 community organizations (see below) and 250+ individuals.
The Korematsu Institute’s inaugural Fred Korematsu Day celebration took place on January 30, 2011. That same month, the Institute launched its curriculum program, shipping 500 FREE Korematsu teaching kits to K-12 teachers throughout California. To access our online curriculum or sign up for our next round of FREE teaching kits, please click here. To support our curriculum program, please click here.
History of the Bill
Lillian Lim, a former Superior Court judge in San Diego, first learned of the forced removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans through her father, a World War II U.S. Army veteran and Filipino who had witnessed what he described as grievous acts of discrimination against his fellow Americans. Many years later, Lim was an adjunct professor of law and was dismayed by the generational loss of memory of the Korematsu cases and their historical significance. She shared her concerns with a lawyer named Maria Pe who suggested establishing a Fred Korematsu Day where everyone, particularly our schools, would acknowledge and discuss the vulnerability of civil rights as demonstrated by the forced removal and imprisonment of Japanese Americans and the continued need to protect our civil liberties.
An ad hoc committee of the Southwest Center for Asian Pacific American Law (SCAPAL) was then formed with the goal of establishing a Fred Korematsu Day. Members of the committee included Lim, Pe, Mitsuo Tomita, Dave Kawamoto, Susan Woo, Palma Hooper, Dale Minami, Ruthe Ashley, Koji Fukumura, Glenn Barroga and Margaret Iwanaga-Penrose. Woo and Erin Tomine conducted historical research and produced the first draft of a Resolution to establish Fred Korematsu Day. Lim and others edited the Resolution and Lim’s son, Peter Lim Quon, prepared a website to assist in gathering support.
The Committee faced many challenges as it sought legislators to help carry the bill. However, committee members remained motivated by the positive community and organizational support. News articles were written of their efforts. Fortunately, Woo met Joyce Temporal, a staff member of Assembly member Marty Block’s (D – San Diego) office. Temporal was also Assembly member Warren Furutani’s (D – South Los Angeles County) goddaughter. Temporal and Minami facilitated a meeting with Warren Furutani, Marty Block, Assembly staffers, Lim, Woo, Tomita and Kawamoto. This meeting was a monumental step in bringing the proposed Fred Korematsu Day to both houses of the California State Legislature. Woo and Lim composed the first draft of the legislation and the co-authors and their staff worked closely with the Korematsu Institute to advance the bill to its final version and enactment.
The Korematsu Institute then reached out to the community to launch a letter-writing campaign. During the legislative process, more than 50 organizations and 250 individuals submitted support letters for the bill. The bill, AB 1775, passed in a series of unanimous votes in the Assembly Education Committee (May 5, 8-0), the Assembly Floor (May 20, 69-0), the Senate Education Committee (June 30, 8-0), on the Senate Floor (Aug 9, 34-0), and in the California legislature on Aug. 24, 2010. On Thursday, Sept. 23, 2010, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law “Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution,” the first day named after an Asian American in US history. The Day will be commemorated every January 30, on Fred Korematsu’s birthday.
The first Fred Korematsu Day was celebrated on January 30, 2011. The Korematsu Institute organized a sold-out inaugural celebration in Berkeley, CA. More than 700 people came out to hear speakers including Rev. Jesse Jackson, a message from Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, as well as remarks from other community leaders and students. That same month, the Korematsu Institute launched its curriculum program, shipping 500 free teaching kits to K-12 teachers throughout California. The first Day was also covered in an editorial in the New York Times, and on the front pages of the San Francisco Chronicle and Los Angeles Times.
Here are some of the diverse organizations and individuals that sent in support letters during the legislative process:
American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
American Civil Liberties Union
American Muslim Voice
Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation
Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area
Asian American Justice Center
Asian Law Caucus
Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Los Angeles County
Asian Pacific American Legal Center
Asian/Pacific Bar Association of Sacramento
Asian Pacific Bar Association of Silicon Valley
Central CA Asian Pacific American Bar Association
Chinese for Affirmative Action
Council on American Islamic Relations – CA
Dolores Huerta Foundation
Equal Justice Society
Filipino American Lawyers of San Diego
Filipino Bar Association of Northern California
Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality
Fred T. Korematsu Discovery Academy
Fred T. Korematsu Institute for Civil Rights and Education
Fred T. Korematsu School at Mace Ranch
Go For Broke National Education Center
Aggie Idemoto, Ed.D.
Japanese American Bar Association of Greater Los Angeles
Japanese American Citizens League (National)
Japanese American Citizens League, Pacific Southwest District
Japanese American Citizens League, San Francisco Chapter
Japanese American Citizens League, Watsonville-Santa Cruz Chapter
Japanese American Museum of San Jose
Japanese American National Museum
Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern CA
Korean American Bar Association of Southern California
Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area
Muslim Public Affairs Council
National Asian Pacific American Bar Association
Orange County Asian American Bar Association
Organization of Chinese Americans (National)
Organization of Chinese Americans, Greater Los Angeles
Organization of Chinese Americans, Orange County
Organization of Chinese Americans, Silicon Valley
Pan Asian Lawyers of San Diego
Philippine American Bar Association of Los Angeles
Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development
San Leandro Unified School District
Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund
South Asian Bar Association of Northern California
Southwest Center for Asian Pacific American Law
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell
Taiwanese American Citizens League
Thomas Jefferson School of Law’s Asian Pacific American Law Student Association
Ventura County Asian American Bar Association
Vietnamese American Bar Association of Northern California