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Michigan Recognizes Civil Rights Activist Fred Korematsu

Fred Korematsu at his home in San Leandro, Calif., in 1996.
Robin Weiner
Fred Korematsu at his home in San Leandro, Calif., in 1996.

Beginning Jan. 30, 2024, Michigan will have a day dedicated to recognizing Fred Korematsu, a civil rights activist who pushed back against Japanese American incarceration during World War Two.

Korematsu, who was born on Jan. 30 in California, refused to report to one of the many camps across the Western Coast, ignoring the executive order issued by Franklin D. Roosevelt.

This resulted in his arrest. Soon after, he was approached by the American Civil Liberties Union who offered to help him appeal his case. The case made it all the way to the United States Supreme Court where the ACLU and Korematsu argued that the order went against the Due Process Clause of the 5th Amendment.

The Supreme Court ruled against Korematsu, stating that the executive order was justified in order to keep America safe during its time of war.

While he lost his case, Korematsu is now nationally recognized as an Asian American civil rights hero.

Dr. Jennifer Liu Demas is a history professor at Central Michigan University. She says she taught about Japanese American incarceration during World War two and was glad to hear about the passing of the bill. 

“I think it’s important to recognize and be able to demonstrate that we are headed towards more racial justice,” she said.

After the end of the war, Korematsu briefly lived in Detroit where he met his wife before moving back to California.

The new recognition day serves to acknowledge Korematsu’s contributions toward racial justice with Fred Korematsu Day every January 30 in Michigan.