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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

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2015 Marquee Event

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"As long as my record stands in federal court, any American citizen can be held in prison or concentration camps without trial or hearing. I would like to see the government admit they were wrong and do something about it, so this will never happen again to any American citizen of any race, creed, or color."
—Fred Korematsu (1983), on his decision to again challenge his conviction 40 years later.

Karen Korematsu
Photo courtesy of Karen
Korematsu and the
Korematsu Institute.

Karen Korematsu, Guest Lecturer – Founder and Executive Director of the Korematsu Institute, and daughter of Fred T. Korematsu, presents: “Korematsu v. United States (1944): The Growing Legacy of
Fred T. Korematsu, National Civil Rights Hero."
12:00-1:30pm, Thursday, September 17, 2015
Ostrander Auditorium


Brief Biography: Karen Korematsu is the Founder and Executive Director of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute and the daughter of the late Fred T. Korematsu. In 2009, on the 25th anniversary of the reversal of Fred Korematsu’s WWII U.S. Supreme Court conviction, Karen established the Fred T. Korematsu Institute for Civil Rights and Education as a community program with the Asian Law Caucus (ALC), now known as Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco. ALC was part of and had provided key support to the Coram Nobis Legal Team that reopened Korematsu v. United States in 1983. After Fred Korematsu Day in California was established, the program evolved to focus on K-12 education that lead to the next step of the Korematsu Institute transitioning into an independent entity. In May 2013, Karen took over the leadership of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute and in July 2014 it became an independent organization fiscally sponsored by Community Initiatives.

[PDF] Expanded Biography (60 KiB)

Korematsu 3
Photo courtesy of Karen
Korematsu and the
Korematsu Institute.

Background: In Korematsu v. United States, the Supreme Court held that the wartime internment of American citizens of Japanese descent was constitutional. The Court's decision in Korematsu, loudly criticized by many civil libertarians at the time and generally condemned by historians ever since, has never been explicitly overturned. Indeed, it is frequently cited for its assertion that "all legal restrictions which curtail the civil rights of a single racial group are immediately suspect." However, a report issued by Congress in 1983 declared that the decision had been "overruled in the court of history," and the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 contained a formal apology -- as well as provisions for monetary reparations -- to the Japanese Americans interned during the war.

In 1998, President Bill Clinton awarded Fred Korematsu the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Significantly, not until the 2003 case Grutter v. Bollinger (dealing with the affirmative action policy at the University of Michigan Law School) did the Court again approve an instance of racial discrimination against the application of Black's "rigid scrutiny" standard. Jackson's dissent, though, reminds us of the difficult position the Court finds itself in when it assesses claimed violations of constitutional rights in times of war.

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