October 1, 2010 (Sacramento) Governor Schwarzenegger has signed AB 1775 to designate January 30 of each year as Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution, in recognition of the Japanese American veteran's life-long fight to preserve civil liberties and constitutional rights. The measure was co-authored by Assemblyman Marty Block (D-Lemon Grove.)
“As a trailblazer of civil rights who stood against the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, Fred Korematsu’s legacy reminds us that we must use this dark period in our history as a teaching tool to educate future generations on the importance of preserving civil liberties for everyone," Block said.
He added, "I thank the Governor for signing the Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution into law because it further ensures that Fred’s legacy of bravery and sacrifice will be taught in classrooms across California, and help us remain vigilant against the racism and stereotyping he fought to overcome.”
Fred Korematsu was a Californian who refused to comply with Civilian Exclusion Order 34, part of the federal Executive Order 9066, which imposed strict curfew regulations and required over 100,000 Japanese Americans to leave their homes to be incarcerated in concentration camps during World War II. As a result, Korematsu was arrested and convicted in federal court, but he fought back because he believed the conviction went against basic freedoms, guaranteed to him by the U.S. Constitution. He appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1944 and they upheld his conviction.
After the war, the conviction continued to negatively affect his life, even his ability to gain employment. On April 19, 1984, Korematsu’s conviction was ultimately overturned, a decision that influenced Congress to pass the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which recognized that a grave injustice was done by the forced relocation and internment of civilian Americans because of wartime prejudice.
This bill encourages public schools and educational institutions to observe this day and conduct exercises remembering the life of Fred Korematsu and recognizing the importance of preserving civil liberties, even in times of real or perceived crisis.
AB 1775 is jointly authored by Assemblymember Block and Assemblymember Warren Furutani (AD-55).