High School Could Be Named After Fred Korematsu

HERO — A school campus could be named for Fred Korematsu. photo courtesy of the Korematsu family

SAN LEANDRO, Calif. — A campaign has been launched to name San Leandro High School’s new ninth grade campus after the late Fred Korematsu — whose challenge of the forced relocation during World War II and efforts to throw out his wartime conviction decades later ultimately led to the Japanese American Redress Movement.

Stephen Cassidy, a former member of the San Leandro School Board, initiated the campaign.

Cassidy, a consumer attorney, called the Nikkei a “true hero of the civil rights movement,” and indicated on the http://gosanleandro.blogspot.com blog, that he will submit a nomination for Korematsu.

The San Leandro School Board will hold a vote in December on what to name the school. The campus is scheduled to open by the fall of next year.

Korematsu’s daughter, Karen, said that she is excited that the possibility that the school will be named for her father.

“My father’s story is really an American story. That’s why it would be so wonderful to have the school named after him,” she said.

She added that it would serve as a strong reminder to younger generations of the historic legacy that her father left.

“My father’s a positive role model who kids — and all people — need. He’s a positive force in that he stood up against the government. He showed that one person can make a difference. We need to educate people about what happened in the past,” said Korematsu, adding that her father was actively involved in the San Leandro community.

Korematsu was born in Oakland. In 1942, he was arrested and incarcerated in the Topaz (Central Utah) concentration camp.

The Nikkei filed a lawsuit in 1942 asserting that his constitutional rights had been violated. However, the court ruled against Korematsu.

Korematsu’s appeal went up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled against him in 1944.

Some 40 years later documents were uncovered that indicated that the Justice Department had misrepresented the facts to the Supreme Court, and he re-opened his case.

Korematsu’s pro bono legal team claimed that the government had concealed evidence in his initial case, and that his incarceration had been motivated by racism, rather than military necessity.

“We got all the evidence from the government’s own documents, and found that none of it was true. The people that should have known better buckled under political pressure,” said Donald K. Tamaki, a lawyer who represented Korematsu in the landmark case. “Fred rose above it all and the truth came out. Ultimately, he was right.”

Korematsu’s conviction was vacated; he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

On March 30, 2005, Korematsu died at the age of 86.

“For Fred to be vindicated and then to have a school possibly named for him — that’s wonderful,” said Tamaki, who added that Korematsu never discussed the case with his children.

Tamaki said that Korematsu’s legacy is that of an average citizen who was not afraid to take a stand against the government for what he knew to be right.

UNDER CONSTRUCTION — This is a rendering of the San Leandro ninth grade campus. photo courtesy of the San Leandro School Board

“Fred is the archetype of the ordinary American who stood up against the odds. There are a few people in American history — Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. Jr. — who put themselves at great peril, and Fred is one of those people,” Tamaki said.

Nominations to name San Leandro High School’s new ninth grade campus may be submitted via e-mail to newcampus@sanleandro.k12.ca.us or to the Board of Education, 9th Grade Campus Naming, 14735 Juniper St. San Leandro, CA 94579.

There is an elementary school in Davis named for Korematsu.
For more information about naming the San Leandro campus after Korematsu, contact Margarita Lacabe at (510) 483-4005 or marga@lacabe.com.

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