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Google makes a strong statement with Japanese internment camp survivor on site

Last Updated: January 31, 2017

In addition to renowned holiday animations, Google Doodles routinely celebrate important historical figures. Today's, honoring Fred Korematsu on what would have been his 98th birthday, is no different. However, when you consider the political events of this past weekend, the Doodle takes on a significance that far exceeds the usual birthday wishes.

That's because Korematsu, the son of Japanese immigrants, was a prominent civil rights activist who spent his life fighting racism in the United States. After being arrested for evading imprisonment in a Japanese American internment camp in the 1940s, he used his trial as a platform to argue against the legality of the internment camps. He lost his case, and remained in a camp for the duration of World War II. His conviction was ultimately overturned more than three decades after the war's end. 

In a blog post, Google quotes a famous line from Korematsu that resonates in the aftermath of President Trump's latest executive order, which barred refugees and immigrants from predominantly Muslim nations from entering the U.S., sparking protests across the country.

"If you have the feeling that something is wrong, don't be afraid to speak up," Korematsu said. 

Korematsu died in 2005, but it seems reasonable to imagine that he would have applauded the protestors, who wasted no time in organizing against the Trump Administration, prompting speedy action from the courts and perhaps forcing the government to dial back a small but crucial part of the order.

Korematsu remained an activist throughout his life, becoming a member of the National Coalition for Redress and Reparations, where he lobbied for a bill that would grant an official apology from the government and compensation of $20,000 for the Japanese Americans who were held in internment camps. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed the reparations legislation and redress into law.

President Bill Clinton awarded Korematsu the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998. The medal is seen in the Google Doodle drawn by Sophie Diao, who is also a child of Asian immigrants. Korematsu's birthday, Jan. 30, is now officially recognized as Fred Korematsu Day in Hawaii, Virginia, California and Florida.