January 30th is Fred Korematsu Day. Mr. Korematsu was a national civil rights hero. He was one of only a handful of Asian Americans who challenged the government’s efforts to incarcerate Japanese Americans from the West Coast in internment camps during World War II. At the age of 23, Mr. Korematsu was arrested and eventually convicted for defying the government’s order to leave California. Undeterred, he appealed his case all the way to the Supreme Court. In 1944, in a decision that remains a stain on the Court’s legacy, the Court ruled against him. As Associate Justice Stephen Breyer declares in our film, Korematsu and Civil Liberties, it is “universally acknowledge that that was an error.” Watch our film and learn more about Mr. Korematsu and his fight for justice.
This week marks the anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first bill signed into law by President Barack Obama back in 2009. As a new president takes office, there’s still a lot of work to be done to ensure equal pay for equal work becomes a reality. Watch our ABA Silver Gavel Award winning film, A Call to Act and learn about Mrs. Ledbetter’s amazing fight that took her to the Supreme Court, Congress and finally the White House.
On December 7, 1787, Delaware became the first state to ratify the Constitution. Article VII of the Constitution required that 9 out of the original 13 colonies ratify the document for it to be adopted. On June 21, the following year, New Hampshire became that 9th state. Rhode Island became the last state to ratify the Constitution nearly 2 years later in May of 1790.
Read more about the ratification process at the National Archives.
Every citizens gets to vote in our democracy. That’s how it’s supposed to work, right? But that hasn’t always meant that each vote counts equally. Even today, rural voters have a disproportionate effect on our elections. Watch One Person, One Vote to learn about the ongoing struggle to make sure that all voters have an equal say in our elections.
153 years ago today, President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address at the dedication of Solders’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Four months earlier, Gettysburg had been the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. 51,000 Union and Confederate soldiers were killed or wounded over three days of fighting. Though only three paragraphs long, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is considered by many to be one of the greatest speeches in American history.
See an original copy and read the text at the Library of Congress.
Recently, a prominent supporter of the President-elect argued on national television for the creation of a registry for Muslims in America. To support this, he cited the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II as precedent. Please watch our film Korematsu and Civil Liberties about this dark period in our country’s history to see why such policies should never be repeated.
The polls are open, so go out and vote (if you’re old enough)!
And when you’re finished at the voting booth, check our our film One Person, One Vote about the landmark voting rights case, Baker v. Carr.
On October 27, 1787, the first of 85 essays that would come to known as the Federalist Papers was published in a New York newspaper called The Independent Journal. Using the pen-name “Publius,” Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay wrote the Federalist Papers to gain support for the ratification of the Constitution, which had been signed the month before on September 17, 1787.
Read the Federalist Papers at the Library of Congress.
Another film in the Constitution Project Series, Habeas Corpus: The Guantanamo Cases, was a runner up in the category.
The Supreme Court is considering two cases this month involving racal bias in the courtroom. In Buck v. Davis, the Court will decide whether a death sentence can be appealed because an expert for the defense testified that the defendant posed a greater risk of future criminal acts because he is African American. And today the Court will hear arguments in Peña-Rodriguez v. Colorado, which involves the question of whether a jury verdict can be overturned because of allegations of racial bias during jury deliberations.
Read more about Buck v. Davis.
Read more about Peña-Rodriguez v. Colorado.
And see Christina Swarns, who argued Buck v. Davis before the Supreme Court last week, in our film Jury Selection: Edmonson v. Leesville.