Civil rights activist Fred Korematsu, an Oakland native who fought the government’s internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, was honored by Google Doodle on Monday on what would have been his 98th birthday.
Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the infamous Executive Order 9066, which forced about 115,000 American citizens of Japanese descent to live in designated military zones. The internment is now seen as an ugly moment in American history, in which fear outweighed tolerance.
Korematsu, the son of Japanese immigrants, refused to go into the government’s internment camps and was arrested and convicted of breaking military law. With the help of the ACLU, Korematsu appealed in the landmark Supreme Court case of Korematsu v. United States, but in 1944 the court ruled against him. He and his family were then sent to the Central Utah War Relocation Center until the end of the war in 1945.
Korematsu’s conviction was overturned in 1983 when evidence came to light that showed the FBI knew there was no serious evidence that America’s Japanese population was helping the enemy. TIME wrote:
Korematsu remained an activist throughout his life, becoming a member of the National Coalition for Redress and Reparations, where he lobbied for a bill that would grant an official apology from the government and compensation of $20,000 for the Japanese Americans who were held in internment camps. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed the reparations legislation and redress into law.
President Bill Clinton awarded Korematsu the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998. The medal is seen in the Google Doodle drawn by Sophie Diao, who is also a child of Asian immigrants. Korematsu’s birthday, Jan. 30, is now officially recognized as Fred Korematsu Day in Hawaii, Virginia, California and Florida.
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