1943 June 21

Hirabayashi: Supreme Court Upholds Japanese-American Curfew


Gordon Hirabayashi was convicted of violating the curfew affecting Japanese-Americans in Seattle in 1942. In Hirabayashi v. United States — the first Japanese-American case to reach the Supreme Court — the Court upheld the curfew on this day. The evacuation and internment of the Japanese-Americans during World War II is regarded as possibly the greatest civil liberties tragedy in American history. See President Roosevelt’s Executive Order authorizing the evacuation of the Japanese-Americans on February 19, 1942.

The Supreme Court’s subsequent decision, Korematsu v. United States on December 18, 1944, upheld the constitutionality of the removal of Japanese-Americans from the designated military zones. The government officially ended the program on December 17, 1944, one day before the Ex parte Endo decision, on December 18, 1944, in which the Court held that the government could not detain admittedly loyal individuals. The Court’s two decisions, Hirabayashi and Korematsu, are widely regarded as among the worst decisions in the history of the Supreme Court.

In 2012 President Barack Obama awarded posthumously the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Gordon Hirabayashi.

Justice Stone for the Court: “Distinctions between citizens solely because of their ancestry are by their very nature odious to a free people whose institutions are founded upon the doctrine of equality. . . .  [But]  . . . The fact alone that attack on our shores was threatened by Japan rather than another enemy power set these citizens apart from others who have no particular associations with Japan.”

Watch an interview with Gordon Hirabayashi: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8VNrUrEj7HU

Learn more about the Japanese American evacuation and internment: Peter Irons, Justice at War: The Story of the Japanese-American Internment Cases (1983)

Learn more about Gordon Hirabayashi: http://encyclopedia.densho.org/Gordon_Hirabayashi/

Read: Greg Robinson, By Order of the President: FDR and the Internment of Japanese Americans (2001)

Find a Day

Abortion Rights ACLU african-americans Alice Paul anti-communism Anti-Communist Hysteria Birth Control Brown v. Board of Education Censorship CIA Civil Rights Civil Rights Act of 1964 Cold War Espionage Act FBI First Amendment Fourteenth Amendment freedom of speech Free Speech Gay Rights Hate Speech homosexuality Hoover, J. Edgar HUAC Japanese American Internment King, Dr. Martin Luther Ku Klux Klan Labor Unions Lesbian and Gay Rights Loyalty Oaths McCarthy, Sen. Joe New York Times Obscenity Police Misconduct Same-Sex Marriage Separation of Church and State Sex Discrimination Smith Act Spying Spying on Americans Vietnam War Voting Rights Voting Rights Act of 1965 War on Terror Watergate White House Women's Rights Women's Suffrage World War I World War II Relocation Camps


Tell Us What You Think

We want to hear your comments, criticisms and suggestions!