A Grand Celebration of the Opening of Fred J. Korematsu Middle School

Don Gosney


On January 30th, the 97th anniversary of the birth of Fred J. Korematsu, the WCCUSD celebrated the opening of their new middle school named to honor this civil rights hero.

When President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942 ordering that people of Japanese ancestry be moved to inland internment camps, Fred Korematsu fought the legality of this order and refused to voluntarily be interned.  He was arrested by the military police, tried in federal court and convicted for violating the Executive Order.

Even after being interned at the Central Utah War Relocation Center in Topaz, Utah, his case was appealed all the way to the US Supreme Court where the Executive Order was upheld.

From the Wikipedia article on Fred J. Korematsu:

On November 10, 1983, Judge Marilyn Hall Patel of U.S. District Court in San Francisco formally vacated the conviction. Korematsu stood in front of US District Judge Marilyn Patel and said, “I would like to see the government admit that they were wrong and do something about it so this will never happen again to any American citizen of any race, creed, or color.” He also said, “If anyone should do any pardoning, I should be the one pardoning the government for what they did to the Japanese-American people.” Peter Irons described Korematsu’s ending statement during the case as the most powerful statement he’d ever heard from anyone. He related the statement as being as empowering as Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Judge Patel’s ruling cleared Korematsu’s name, but was incapable of overturning the Supreme Court’s decision.

President Bill Clinton awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States, to Korematsu in 1998, saying, “In the long history of our country's constant search for justice, some names of ordinary citizens stand for millions of souls. Plessy, Brown, Parks ... to that distinguished list, today we add the name of Fred Korematsu.”


The WCCUSD, the community, Korematsu MS students and even Karen Korematsu (Fred’s daughter) gathered to celebrate his birth by opening the school.

WCCUSD Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bruce Harter recently pointed out that the District assigns the school a student attends irrespective of city limit boundaries so even though the new middle school is in El Cerrito, nearly half of the students come from Richmond.

Finishing touches are still being made but the students are expected to relocate from the temporary campus at the home of the old Portola MS campus shortly.

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