Korematsu vs. United States

Korematsu vs. United States
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  • On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 that authorized his Secretary of War and armed forces to take those of Japanese descent to designated detention camps.
  • Fred Korematsu was a Japanese-American who refused to comply to the ordered although his family had already left in order to prepare for the camp. Korematsu went to the lengths of surgically changing his eyes and changing his name to make those believe he was of Spanish-Hawaiian descent.
  • On May 30, 1942, Korematsu was arrested for failure to report to a relocation center. While in jail, he allowed the American Civil Liberties Union to represent him and challenge the Constitutionality of the order to the courts. He was tried in San Francisco and convicted of violating military orders, five years on probation, and sent to the Assembly Center in San Bruno, CA.
  • And that's the end of the story!
  • Cool. Can we eat now?
  • Korematsu's attorneys appealed the verdict to the Court of Appeals which agreed with the trial court, so they appealed to the Supreme Court who listened to the case since it questioned constitutionality. On December 18, 1944, in a split 6-3 decision the court decided that the detention was a military necessity not based on race. 
  • In 1980, a pro-bono legal team reopened the case on the basis of government misconduct. They showed that the government had suppressed evidence that Japanese Americans were no threat to the U.S. On November 10, 1983, a federal judge overturned Korematsu's conviction.
  • Although Korematsu's conviction was overturned, the Supreme Court decision still stands. The majority opinion by Justice Hugo Black said, "all legal restrictions which curtail the civil rights of a single racial group are immediately suspect." In contrast, Justice Robert Jackson called the order a legalization of racism that violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment.
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