Korematsu, a Symbol of Civil Rights in Northern California

by Kilian Fitzgerald

On this day in 1983, Fred Korematsu’s conviction for treason was overturned, rectifying the infamous ruling of Korematsu v United States of 1944. Korematsu v The United States upheld Korematsu’s criminal arrest for defying Executive Order 9066. Under Order 9066, Japanese Americans, both immigrants, and naturalized citizens were interned under suspicion of treason. Korematsu’s conviction was overturned due to revelations that intelligence had been hidden from the Supreme Court in 1944 which disproved the charge that Japanese Americans were collaborating with Imperial Japan.

Today, Fred Korematsu’s legacy can be seen in the 2020 Black Lives Matter Movement and other movements for racial equality. As monetary reparations for the descendants of African American slaves has become a 2020 argument, it’s important to recognize Korematsu’s connection to the idea of reparations. The Civil Liberties Act of 1988, signed into law by President Ronald Reagan, offered financial restitution and an apology to interned Japanese citizens.

In 2003, Korematsu visited Sonoma for a screening of his documentary, Of Civil Wrongs and Rights. The Oakland born Korematsu died March 30, 2005, in Marin County.


Fournier, E.P. (2001, July 10). Of Civil Wrongs and Rights [Video]. PBS.

Fred T. Korematsu Institute. (n.d). Fred T. Korematsu. Retrieved November 10, 2020, from http://www.korematsuinstitute.org/fred-t-korematsu-lifetime/.

Goldberg, Emma. (2020, June 18). How Reparations for Slavery Became a 2020 Campaign Issue. Retrieved November 10, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/18/us/politics/reparations-slavery.html.

The Napa Register. (1982, November 11). Conviction thrown out, pp. 13.

The Napa Valley Register. (2005, April 1). World War II interment challenger, Korematsu dies, pp. A5.