Of Civil Rights and Wrongs
"If you look at Fred Korematsu, you see a very ordinary man who just wanted to be left alone, but who defied the United States government because he knew it [the government] was wrong," says John Tateishi, Executive Director Japanese American Citizens League. Of Civil Wrongs and Rights recounts the events that led a quiet, unassuming man to defy the United States government and wait almost 40 years to prove his innocence.
Korematsu says he felt that, "I'm an American and just as long as I'm in this country that I will keep on going and if there is a chance of reopening the case, I will do it." This chance came in the form of Peter Irons, a law professor, researching the internment for a book. Irons discovered long-forgotten documents that proved that the Justice Department had misrepresented the facts to the Supreme Court. He took this evidence to Fred Korematsu, and they both decided to re-open the case.
Of Civil Wrongs and Rights also is, in part, the story of idealistic young lawyers and their own fight to end the discrimination that also touched the lives of their family and community members. Their efforts ultimately uncovered documents that clearly showed the government concealed evidence in the 1944 case that racism — not military necessity — motivated the internment order. More than 39 years after the fact, a federal judge reversed Fred Korematsu's conviction, acknowledging the "great wrong" done to him.
Former President Clinton praised Korematsu at the ceremony, stating that "In the long history of our country's constant search for justice, some names of ordinary citizens stands for millions of souls — Plessy, Brown, Parks. To that distinguished list today we add the name of Fred Korematsu."