Korematsu and Civil Liberties

About the Film

On May 30, 1942, Fred Korematsu was arrested on a streetcorner in San Leandro, California. He knew he was breaking federal law – he had even undergone plastic surgery to avoid detection. His crime? Fred Korematsu was Japanese-American.

During World War II, 120,000 people in the United States were placed in internment camps. They weren’t soldiers captured on battlefields – all of them were civilians and most were American citizens. But they were also all of Japanese descent and that alone made them suspect.

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In February of 1942, just months after Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed an executive order allowing the military to evacuate all people Japanese ancestry from the West Coast of the United States. A short time later, Congress made it law.

Korematsu and Civil Liberties tells the story of one man’s 40 year struggle for justice and the consequences a nation faces when weighing national security, politics, and its Constitutional obligations.The internment “was not necessary,” Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer says in the film. “I think it is universally acknowledged that that was an error.”

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Further Reading

Read the Supreme Court’s decision in Korematsu v. United States

Read documents and view images related to the Japanese-American Internment

View photographs by Ansel Adams of the Manzanar camp 

Learn more about Pearl Harbor

Learn more about the Interment Camp sites


Producer, Writer and Narrator, Robe Imbriano
Field Producer, Carla Denly
Associate Producer, Sandra McDaniel
Editor, Marc Tidalgo
Graphics Animators, Victoria Nece and Hiroaki Sasa
Camera, Dave Dellaria, Brett Wiley and Edward Marritz
Production Associate, Gregory Blanc
Research, María E. Matasar-Padilla
Supervising Producer, Christina Lowery
Sound, Dave Baum, Brian Buckley and Mark Mandler
Music, Ben Decter and Gavin Allen
Additional Camera, Tony Forma and Daryl Patterson
Additional Sound, Jeff Edrich
Senior Producer, Kayce Freed Jennings
Executive Producer, Tom Yellin