Trenton – The Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee advanced Senate Joint Resolution 69, sponsored by Senator Joe Lagana, designating January 30 of each year as Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution in New Jersey.
“I am proud once more to pay tribute to and recognize the heroic life of Fred Korematsu, a Japanese American who spent an entire lifetime fighting against racial injustice and inequality and standing up for the rights and civil liberties of all Americans,” said Senator Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic).
Born in Oakland, Calif., in 1919, Korematsu was denied eligibility to serve in the U.S. military because his selective service classification was changed to enemy alien following the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. He later refused to comply with President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s executive order that resulted in the removal and relocation to internment camps of over 100,000 men, women and children of Japanese ancestry during World War II.
Korematsu was convicted of violating military orders issued during wartime, and sent to prison. He appealed his case all the way to the Supreme Court, but lost in a 6-3 decision in 1944. Upon his eventual release, he continued to fight racism and inequality for the remainder of his life.
In 1998, President Bill Clinton awarded Korematsu the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor.
The resolution, SJR-69, passed out of committee by a vote of 5-0.