January 30th was Fred Korematsu Day, a day recognized in ten states honoring the memory of Fred Korematsu, a leader that the Japanese American community esteems just as much as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr is esteemed in the mainstream.
Who was he and what did he do? The short story is that he opposed President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, the one establishing internment camps for enemies of America, which the executors interpreted as all Japanese Americans.
An exhibit on the Executive order at the Small Documents Gallery at the National Museum of American History.
Let’s back up a little bit. On February 19, 1942, which was ten weeks after the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor, President FDR signed Executive Order 9066. EO 9066 authorized the removal of people from military areas “as deemed necessary or desirable.” The military defined the West Coast as a military area and deemed it necessary to remove all people of Japanese ancestry or nationality from that area. The result of the EO was that Japanese Americans were forced to inland to secure facilities – the Internment/Incarceration camps. Please note: Nowhere did the Executive Order single out the Japanese, and several thousand Germans, Jews (the religious practice, not the ethnicity), and Italians were also interned, but they were about 13,000 in number, compared to the 120,000 Japanese.
To quote the Alan Jackson song, where were you when the world stopped turning, that September day?
Melbourne was supposed to be next, but today snuck up unexpectedly fast and I wanted to get some thoughts out On This Day.
I had the recent great fortune of going on a behind-the-scenes tour of some of the 9/11 section of the Smithsonian’s American History museum. The curator-tour-guide was talking about the challenges that this particular event presented and how they ended up focusing on the stories of the people involved – the victims, the responders, ordinary Americans. Anything too close to the ongoing(?) wars in Afghanistan and Iraq would tread dangerously political terrain far outside the Museum’s purview. One of the 9/11 curators, Peter Liebhold, wrote up something on the museum’s website about the challenges of curating for this event:
A few weeks ago – November 19-21 to be exact – the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History hosted a weekend dedicated to exploring history through film. As I am a visual person and like history, you bet your bottom dollar I was there.
It began with a keynote address by Ric Burns, renowned and influential documentary filmmaker, although most people know him as the brother of Ken. (They both worked on the seminal Civil War behemoth that has become standard classroom fare since it first aired in 1990.) I am unable to locate any video evidence of the keynote but I found the Twitter handle and you can have a picture of him. Here: