NEW JERSEY – Governor Phil Murphy Monday signed a joint resolution (AJR98) designating January 30 of each year as “Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution in New Jersey.”
The day of recognition honors the legacy of Fred Korematsu, an American civil rights activist of Japanese heritage who fought against the wrongful incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.
Governor Murphy was joined today by Dr. Karen Korematsu, daughter of Fred Korematsu and Founder and Executive Director of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute; Ambassador Mikio Mori, Consul General of Japan in New York; Vice-Consul Haruna Maki; legislators; and advocates to commemorate New Jersey’s first Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution, which will be celebrated annually on Mr. Korematsu’s birthday.
“In setting aside a day permanently recognizing the contributions of Fred Korematsu, we are recommitting ourselves to our nation’s ideal of protecting civil liberties,” Murphy said. “While we can never rectify the injustices woven into the fabric of our nation’s history, we can ensure that the stories of those who fought against injustice are never forgotten. History must be our guide for creating a better tomorrow. I am honored to sign this resolution and to put New Jersey firmly, and forever, on the side of Fred Korematsu and all who keep his legacy alive.”
“AAPI stories often go unknown, unrecognized, and can slip through the cracks of history into the forgotten. New Jersey is doing a great thing by honoring Fred Korematsu and his courageous activism for civil rights – not only to celebrate his service and perseverance, but for recognizing a true AAPI civil rights champion,” said Congressman Andy Kim. “Fred always stood for what was right and offered his life and story to combat discriminatory policies and xenophobia in our country. May ‘Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution’ be a lasting recognition of his impact and the many contributions of the AAPI community to our nation’s story.”
“Congratulations New Jersey! Thank you, Senator Lagana, Assemblymen Mukherji, Verrelli and Umba, who sponsored the bill and Governor Murphy for signing it into law. And of course, thank you to ‘Tak’ Furumoto, a camp survivor who shared his testimony— and advocated for this during COVID, Spring of 2020,” said Dr. Karen Korematsu, daughter of Fred Korematsu and Founder and Executive Director, Fred T. Korematsu Institute. “This demonstrates how one person’s brave stance can change the lives of many others. Let us always remember and honor the memory of my father so that honor and justice will shine forever.”
“Today, Jan. 30, 2023, is a great day for State of NJ—it is a great day for HUMAN KIND!” said Takeshi Furumoto, internment camp survivor and human right activist. “To not only recognize the wrongs of the past, but by recognizing this through legislation, vows to not repeat it. As a survivor, by testifying and passing this bill, and getting unanimous vote of approval by the State Senate and Assembly, gives me a hope for future of America!”
Primary sponsors of the legislation include Senator Joseph Lagana, and Assemblymembers Raj Mukerji, Anthony Verrelli, and Brandon Umba.
Fred T. Korematsu was an American civil rights activist. In 1942, at the age of 23, he refused to go to the government’s incarceration camps for Japanese Americans. After he was arrested and convicted of defying the government’s order, he appealed his case all the way to the United States Supreme Court. In 1944, a divided Supreme Court ruled against him, arguing that the incarceration was justified due to military necessity.
In 1983, with new evidence, a pro-bono legal team re-opened Korematsu’s 40-year-old case on the basis of government misconduct. On November 10, 1983, Korematsu’s conviction was overturned in a federal court in San Francisco. In 1998, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from President Bill Clinton. And in 2018, the Supreme Court formally repudiated its 1944 decision, which today is widely regarded as one of the most unjust decisions in the history of the Court.