February 2, 2015
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
We write on behalf of the United States Commission on Civil Rights (“the Commission”) to follow up on our letter to you dated March 28, 2014 and renew our request for federal recognition of January 30th as a national holiday to recognize National Fred Korematsu Day. Recognizing this day would be a fitting tribute to Fred T. Korematsu’s courage to stand up for civil rights and liberties by challenging President Franklin Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 which authorized the removal of Japanese Americans from their homes and placement into internment camps during World War II.
As we previously mentioned, the legacy of Mr. Korematsu has a very personal connection to the Commission–even more so than last year. The families of Commissioners Michael Yaki and Karen Narasaki were both interned during World War II due to their Japanese ancestry. It is a testament to the beauty and ideals of the United States that the children of interned Japanese Americans are now serving on a federal commission dedicated to ensuring the civil rights of all Americans.
Mr. Korematsu’s actions are truly inspiring. Arrested and convicted for defying Executive Order 9066, he took his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court which upheld his conviction in one of the Court’s most infamous decisions. He never gave up, and nearly 40 years later a federal court overturned his conviction after a historian discovered that the government intentionally concealed evidence that Japanese Americans did not pose a military threat. Mr. Korematsu continued to be an outspoken civil rights activist, seeking redress for interned Japanese Americans, receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Clinton, and fighting discrimination against the Muslim American community after 9/11.
Fred Korematsu Day is celebrated every January 30th on Mr. Korematsu’s birthday. Since we last wrote you, the number of states who have recognized Fred Korematsu Day is now up to five, with the most recent being Georgia. 1 Moreover, state representatives in three additional states have introduced resolutions to recognize the holiday. 2
Federal recognition of Fred Korematsu Day would foster greater awareness of not only Mr. Korematsu’s life, but the ideals of equality and justice that he sought for all Americans.
We thank you for your consideration and look forward to continued cooperation in advancing civil rights for all.
Chairman Martin R. Castro
Vice Chair Patricia Timmons-Goodson
Commissioner Robert Achtenberg
Commissioner David Kladney
Commissioner Karen K. Narasaki
Commissioner Michael Yaki
*This letter is signed by the majority of Commissioners serving on the Commission as of January 29, 2015. 2 Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. About Fred Korematsu
1 Fred Korematsu Day in Georgia, http://korematsuinstitute.org/2014/01/fred-korematsu-day-in-georgia/
2 Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. About Fred Korematsu Day, http://korematsuinstitute.org/fredkorematsuday/about/.