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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

Credits

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

One Person, One Vote

About the Film

An examination of the Supreme Court’s dilemmas and tensions as it stepped into the “political thicket” of voting and representational equality, establishing the practice of what has become a core American principle: “One person, one vote.”

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It has the echo of a core American belief. It rings with the same distinctively American clarion call for equality and individual empowerment that reaches back through the ages to the nation’s founding: “…of the people, by the people, for the people”, “All men are created equal”…

But it wasn’t until 1963 that “One person, one vote” became a widely articulated core principle of the Constitution when it was first spoken by Chief Justice Earl Warren’s Supreme Court.

The Warren Court transformed the nation’s political and social landscape in the middle of the twentieth century, applying the Constitution’s expressions of fairness and equality to American life in sometimes startling, courageous, and even jarring ways. But no decisions were as important to the nation or as grueling to the members of the Court as those surrounding equality in voting and representation, known collectively as the Apportionment Cases.

Starting with the Court’s 1962 decision in Baker v. Carr and culminating in 1964 with the case of Reynolds v. Sims, the value of “One person, one vote,” once brought to light, seemed so profoundly rooted in the Constitution its practice became “inevitable.”

Yet at the time these decisions were anything but “inevitable.” It was a wrenching, agonizing time for the Justices. To establish equality in voting and representation, the Court had to overcome deeply rooted political traditions throughout the entire nation, entrenched political powers fiercely opposed to change, and its own precedent, Colegrove v. Green, that some members of the Court believed with every bone in their bodies protected the very practice of democracy in America – as well as the integrity and viability of the Court.

Through all of this, the Chief Justice understood the urgent necessity to press ahead. Of all of the groundbreaking rulings his Court rendered throughout his tenure as Chief Justice, he called the Court’s choice to tackle this issue in Baker, its “most vital decision.”

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Further Reading

Chief Justice Earl Warren

The Warren Court, 1953-1969

Associate Justice Felix Frankfurter

Associate Justice William Brennan

Register to Vote

Contact your Congressional Representative

Contact your Senator

Learn More About Your State Government

Credits

Producer, Writer, and Narrator, Robe Imbriano
Associate Producer, Maria E. Matasar-Padilla
Editors, Brad Smith and Marc Tidalgo
Graphics Animators, Victoria Nece and Hiroaki Sasa
Camera, Edward Marritz
Production Associate, Gregory Blanc
Coordinating Producer, Christina Lowery
Sound, Mark Mandler
Music, Ben Decter and Gavin Allen
Senior Producer, Kayce Freed Jennings
Executive Producer, Tom Yellin

An Independent Judiciary

About the Film

An Independent Judiciary examines both the impact Chief Justice John Marshall had on defining the role of the judiciary in the republic’s crucial early years, as well as two episodes in the struggle to ensure that judicial independence be accepted by the other branches of the government and the people themselves as a fundamental principal of American life.


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We speak with Associate Justice Stephen Breyer as well as some of the foremost Constitutional scholars and John Marshall experts to understand the role the Chief Justice played in shaping the Supreme Court, the judiciary and the nation. Professor James Simon, the author of the Marshall biography What Kind of Nation and Dean Emeritus at New York Law School, provides insight and context to help understand Chief Justice Marshall’s impact on the early republic. Meanwhile, Professors Laurence Tribe and Charles Ogletree of Harvard Law School guide us through Marshall’s most important case, Marbury v. Madison, and the principle of judicial review it helped establish.

We also review two historical episodes, over 120 years apart, that have proven just how important judicial independence is to a free and democratic country.

The first episode is the Cherokee Nation’s attempt in the 1830s to retain its territory in Georgia. The tribe chose not to fight on the battlefield but in the courts, which gave it a fair hearing. But the Supreme Court’s final ruling in favor of the Indian tribe, written by Chief Justice John Marshall as he was nearing the end of his illustrious time on the Court, was defied by President Jackson and Georgia state officials. The result was not only a weakening of the judiciary’s standing in the federal government and in the eyes of the people, but also a national tragedy and one of the darkest chapters of American history, the Trail of Tears. Associate Justice Stephen Breyer discusses the impact this case had on the Court, and Cherokee storyteller Gayle Ross, a descendent of the Cherokee Nation’s Principal Chief during these tumultuous times, the esteemed John Ross, explains how the nation’s defiance ultimately led to the death of thousands of Cherokee Indians.

By the time of our second episode, in 1957, the Constitution and the nation had been changed by Civil War and a century’s experience. This time, the Executive fulfilled his charge to carry out the law by integrating the public schools of Little Rock, Arkansas despite public protests and the open defiance of Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus. Captured on film, President Dwight Eisenhower turns a terrible moment in the nation’s fight for equal rights into a Constitutional triumph, and the Supreme Court affirms that justice depends on judicial independence.

At the center of the fight to integrate Little Rock Central High School was the Little Rock 9, a group of teenagers who bravely faced outright public hostility to their desire to attend one of the most prestigious high schools in Arkansas.

Roy Reed, Arkansas historian and journalist and author of the biography Faubus, helps us understand what motivated Governor Faubus and the people of Arkansas to attempt to openly defy the Supreme Court. And Ernest Green, one of the Little Rock 9 and the first African-American to graduate from Central High, talks about how the actions of the President and the Supreme Court affirming the judiciary’s independence personally changed his life.

An Independent Judiciary is part of a series of films produced for Annenberg Classroom, a project of the Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands in partnership with the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. AnnenbergClassroom.org is an online gateway to award-winning resources for students and teachers.

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Further Reading

Learn more about Chief Justice John Marshall

Learn about the Cherokee Nation

Read about the Cherokee Nation’s first principle chief, John Ross

See who the Little Rock Nine students were

Credits

Producer, Writer and Narrator, Robe Imbriano
Associater Producer, María E. Matasar-Padilla
Editor, Marc Tidalgo
Graphics Animators, Jimmy Higgins and Stevie Clifton
Camera, Edward Marritz and Daryl Pendana
Production Associates, Caitlin Costin and Thomas Beckner
Coordinating Producer, Gabrielle Tenenbaum
Sound, Mark Mandler
Music, Ben Decter and Gavin Allen
Senior Producer, Kayce Freed Jennings
Executive Producer, Tom Yellin