American Portraits

Loyal American: Fred Korematsu, Japanese Internment, and Self-Sacrifice

In this lesson, students will learn about how Fred Korematsu decided to sacrifice himself to fight against Japanese-American internment during World War II. They will also determine ways in which they can sacrifice their own needs and desires for causes that are important.

Founding Principles

Equality image

Equality

Every individual is equal to every other person in regards to natural rights and treatment before the law.

Liberty image

Liberty

Except where authorized by citizens through the Constitution, the government does not have the authority to limit freedom.

Private Virtue image

Private Virtue

The idea that only a knowledgeable and virtuous citizenry can sustain liberty.

Narrative

Fred Korematsu was born in 1919 in Oakland, California. Raised by Japanese immigrants who arrived in the United States in 1905, Fred was active in his community and school and worked in his family’s flower business. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Fred tried to help the American cause by working as a welder and was even promoted to foreman, but he was eventually forced out of the job because of his Japanese descent….

Narrative PDF

Compelling Question

How can you sacrifice your own needs to stand for a cause?

Virtue Defined

Self-sacrifice is purposeful action exchanging personal loss for the good of others.

Lesson Overview

In this lesson, students will learn about how Fred Korematsu decided to sacrifice himself to fight against Japanese-American internment during World War II. They will also determine ways in which they can sacrifice their own needs and desires for causes that are important.

Objectives

  • Students will analyze the self-sacrificial practices of Fred Korematsu in fighting against Japanese-American internment.
  • Students will apply their knowledge of self-sacrifice to their own lives.
  • Students will determine ways that they can sacrifice their own wants and needs to help support greater causes.

Background

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese on December 7, 1941, Japanese-Americans faced great hardship. In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 that called for the internment of Japanese-Americans throughout the nation. Nearly 120,000 Japanese-Americans were forced to relocate from the Pacific coast to internment camps throughout the United States. Most of the people who were interned were United States citizens.

Japanese-Americans who were removed to the camps were forced to leave behind nearly all of their worldly possessions, their property, businesses, and jobs. Sometimes families were separated. Japanese-Americans gave up everything they knew and their livelihood because of the perception that they were enemies of the United States.

Over forty years after the internment, President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which provided about $20,000 in compensation per person to those who had been interned during the war.

Vocabulary

  • Internment
  • Civil Liberties Act of 1988
  • Compensation
  • Executive Order 9066
  • Welder
  • Foreman
  • Descent
  • Relocation
  • Probation
  • American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
  • Central Utah War Relation Center
  • Menial
  • Isolated
  • Conviction
  • Peril
  • Interracial
  • Ancestry
  • Concentration

Introduce Text

Have students read the background and narrative, keeping the Compelling Question in mind as they read. Then have them answer the remaining questions below.

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Questions

Walk-In-The-Shoes Questions
As you read, imagine you are the protagonist.

  • What challenges are you facing?
  • What fears or concerns might you have?
  • What may prevent you from acting in the way you ought?

Observation Questions

  • How did Fred Korematsu identify himself? Why did his identity cause problems?
  • What was Fred Korematsu’s purpose in refusing to go to the internment camp?
  • What actions did Fred Korematsu take to fight for his rights as an American citizen?

Discussion Questions
Discuss the following questions with your students.

  • What is the historical context of the narrative?
  • What historical circumstances presented a challenge to the protagonist?
  • How and why did the individual exhibit a moral and/or civic virtue in facing and overcoming the challenge?
  • How did the exercise of the virtue benefit civil society?
  • How might exercise of the virtue benefit the protagonist?
  • What might the exercise of the virtue cost the protagonist?
  • Would you react the same under similar circumstances? Why or why not?
  • How can you act similarly in your own life? What obstacles must you overcome in order to do so?

Additional Resources

 

Lesson Image: © Image courtesy of the family of Fred T. Korematsu / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-2.0

 

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