In a unanimous vote, the Virginia Senate passed House Joint Resolution 641 to recognize January 30th as Korematsu Day. The day recognizes the historic contribution of Fred T. Korematsu to American history; during World War II, Korematsu — who was an US-born Japanese American citizen — refused to abide by Executive Order 9066 which authorized the incarceration of Japanese Americans in concentration camps (read more about the power of words). Korematsu was arrested and convicted for his refusal.
After the war, Korematsu filed a Supreme Court challenge to the constitutionality of the camps through seeking an appeal to his conviction. Korematsu’s success in overturning his conviction was a significant step in winning reparations for Japanese American survivors of the camps.
Fred T. Korematsu passed away on March 30, 2005. Today, Korematsu’s daughter, Karen, heads the Korematsu Institute, which works to keep Korematsu’s legacy — and the history of Japanese American forcible imprisonment during World War II — alive. One effort of the Institute is to try and have January 30, Fred Korematsu’s birthday, recognized nationally and in all 50 states as Korematsu Day.
In Virginia, House Joint Resolution 641 was advanced by Delagate Mark Keam (@MarkKeam), a member of the Virginia House since 2010. Keam worked with the Korematsu Institute to draft and pass the resolution. Upon completion of the unanimous vote yesterday, Keam had this to say:
Our nation’s history is full of unsung heroes who stood up to injustice to ensure that the promises embedded in our Constitution are not just empty words on paper,” said Keam.
“Fred Korematsu was an American hero whose actions deserve a prominent place in our history. By recognizing his birthday in Virginia – a state that played such a crucial role in drafting our Constitution – we will remind future generations of what Thomas Jefferson warned, that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance,” Keam continued.
Korematsu Day is already recognized by California, Hawaii, Utah, Illinois and Georgia. The Korematsu Institute continues to work to have the day recognized in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and nationally.
Virginia’s first Korematsu Day celebration will occur on January 30, 2016.