Korematsu’s Growing Legacy


Photo by Corky Lee
On February 2, 2012, Fred Korematsu’s became the first Asian American featured in The Struggle for Justice, the permanent civil rights exhibition in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC. The Korematsu family donated two original, 1940s-era photographs to be featured in the exhibit. The Korematsu Institute, together with the National Portrait Gallery, hosted a private reception with a program featuring former US Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta, Congresswoman Judy Chu (chair of the Congressional API Caucus), Congressman Mike Honda, Congresswoman Doris Matsui, Karen Korematsu, Portrait Gallery director Martin Sullivan and Korematsu Institute director Ling Woo Liu.
On September 6, 2011, Fred Korematsu’s sculpture was unveiled in Oakland, CA as part of the “Remember Them: Champions for Humanity” sculpture. The 30-ton, 1000 square-foot monument includes 25 international humanitarians such as Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa and Dr. Martin Luther King. Fred Korematsu is featured in section 3, which honors Bay Area humanitarians, including Marcus Foster, Oleta Abramhs, and Carmen Flores. The sculpture is located in Henry J. Kaiser Memorial Park in downtown Oakland. View sculpture details here. View additional photos of Fred’s sculpture here.
On Sept. 24, 2010, San Leandro High School’s Fred T. Korematsu Campus, a new 9th grade state-of-the art building, was dedicated and opened in San Leandro, CA.
On Sept. 23, 2010, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed AB1775, officially recognizing January 30 (Korematsu’s birthday) as “Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution.” Fred Korematsu Day is a day of special significance when teachers throughout the state of California are encouraged to teach Korematsu’s story and its relevance today. It is the first day in the history of the United States named after an Asian American. The Korematsu Institute’s first Fred Korematsu Day celebration was held on January 30, 2011, with more than 700 people in attendance. See photos here.
In 2009, the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality was launched at Seattle University School of Law.
In 2009, the Fred T. Korematsu Institute for Civil Rights and Education was launched at the Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco, co-founded by Mr. Korematsu’s daughter, Karen Korematsu.
In 2006, the Fred T. Korematsu Discovery Academy (KDA), a K-5 elementary school in Oakland, CA, opened on the original Stonehurst Campus that Fred Korematsu and his brothers originally attended as children. The school now focuses on math and science with curriculum supported by UC Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science.
In 2005, the Fred T. Korematsu Elementary School at Mace Ranch, a new K-6 elementary school building in Davis, CA, was opened.
In 2004, American Muslim Voice launched its Fred Korematsu Civil Rights Award.
In 2002, Fred Korematsu received the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) Justice in Action Award.
On June 15, 2001, the national office of the American Civil Liberties Union awarded Fred Korematsu with the Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty award, which honors individuals who have made lifetime contributions to the advancement of civil liberties. For more information, please click here.
Fred Korematsu has been the subject of several documentaries including Of Civil Wrongs and Rights: the Fred Korematsu Story, directed by Eric Paul Fournier and co-produced by Korematsu’s son, Ken. The film was released in 2001 and won two Emmy Awards.
In 2000, a group of NYU Law School students launched the annual Korematsu Lecture series. The lecture provides a forum to address Asian American perspectives on law and to honor Asian Americans who have added substantially to the development of the law while challenging the status quo.
In 1999, Fred Korematsu received the Rainbow PUSH Coalition’s Trailblazer Award at a lunch celebrating the 58th birthday of Rainbow PUSH founder Rev. Jesse Jackson. The award honors movers and shakers who are committed to social justice. For more information, click here.
  On June 30, 1998, Fred Korematsu received the Pearlstein Civil Rights Award from the Anti-Defamation League. The award is named after Jewish community leaders Carl and Virginia Pearlstein. Click here to read the story.
On June 11, 1998, Mr. Korematsu received one of the first official California Senate Medals, presented to him by California Senator Bill Lockyer, Chair of the Senate Rules Committee. Other awards include four honorary doctorates from City University of New York Law School, University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law, California State University, East Bay (formerly CSU Hayward) and the University of San Francisco.

Photo courtesy of the William J. Clinton Presidential Library
On January 15, 1998, Fred Korematsu received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award. During the official White House ceremony, President Bill Clinton’s introduction of Mr. Korematsu reflects the significance of his achievements: “In the long history of our country’s constant search for justice, some names of ordinary citizens stand for millions of souls … Plessy, Brown, Parks … To that distinguished list, today we add the name of Fred Korematsu.”

Photo by Aya Jennifer Sakaguchi
In 1988, the year President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act, a street in San Jose, CA was named Korematsu Court. It is adjacent to Hirabayashi Drive, named after Gordon Hirabayashi, who in 1942 bravely resisted the government’s curfew order imposed on Japanese Americans.