On this day in labor history, the year was 2011.
That was the day California first celebrated its state holiday, known as Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution.
Born on January 30, 1919, Fred Korematsu was among those victimized by President Roosevelt’s wartime Executive Order 9066, mandating Japanese-American internment.
Born in Oakland, California, Korematsu worked as a shipyard welder.
He was arrested and eventually convicted after refusing to report to authorities for internment.
The ACLU took his case, hoping to test the legality of 9066.
Korematsu and his family were relocated to the Central Utah Wars Relocation Center in Topaz, Utah.
There he worked eight hours a day for $12 a month and waited for his case to travel through the legal system.
It eventually reached the Supreme Court.
In Korematsu v. United States, the Court held that compulsory exclusion, though constitutionally suspect, is justified during circumstances of "emergency and peril.”
After his release, Korematsu worked odd jobs, and faced discrimination and wage theft.
He eventually resettled in Oakland with his wife and children.
In 1983, Korematsu’s conviction was finally vacated.
Fifteen years later, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
He became a tireless activist for civil liberties and worked to ensure internment could never happen again.
Before his death in 2005, he served on the Constitution Project’s Liberty and Security Committee.
He warned, "No one should ever be locked away simply because they share the same race, ethnicity, or religion as a spy or terrorist. If that principle was not learned from the internment of Japanese Americans, then these are very dangerous times for our democracy.”
Fred Korematsu Day is also celebrated in Hawaii, Virginia and Florida.