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Lesson Plan

How a 1944 Supreme Court Ruling on Internment Camps Led to a Reckoning

About this Video
This 10-minute video revisits how just months after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt ordered 120,000 people of Japanese descent, most American citizens, rounded up and imprisoned in camps. Some resisted, like 23-year-old Fred Korematsu, who hid from the authorities and underwent surgery to change his appearance. Korematsu was eventually arrested and convicted of violating the president’s order. He appealed, but the Supreme Court ruled that the order was a valid wartime response to a national security threat. Decades later, the government admitted wrongdoing, issuing official apologies and reparations to those who had been imprisoned. But the Supreme Court’s decision had a lasting impact.

Students will:

  • Analyze an Executive Order to determine the power of the executive branch.
  • Evaluate Supreme Court opinions to determine the main idea and supporting details from both majority and dissenting opinions.
  • Examine the methods used by Japanese-Americans to advocate for greater civil rights and liberties.
  • Civics & Government
  • U.S. History
  • Ronald Reagan
  • Supreme Court
  • Justice
  • Law
  • 1940s America
  • World War II
  • Race in U.S. History
  • Civics and Government
  • U.S. History
For Teachers
Essential Questions
  • How did the United States government legitimize its efforts to relocate and incarcerate Japanese-Americans?
  • How did the efforts of Japanese-Americans lead to the creation of the redress movement and the repudiation of a Supreme Court decision?
Additional Resources
Transcript for "How a 1944 Supreme Court Ruling on Internment Camps Led to a Reckoning" Retro Report
Text of Executive Order 9066 The National Archives
Justice Black’s majority opinion in Korematsu v. United States C-SPAN
Justice Jackson’s dissenting opinion in Korematsu v. United States C-SPAN
Justice Murphy’s dissenting opinion in Korematsu v. United States C-SPAN
Background information about the Coram Nobis cases Densho Encyclopedia
Excerpts from a Justice Department memo authored by Mr. Edward J. Ennis The Department of Justice
Fred T. Korematsu Institute Fred T. Korematsu Institute
Drawings, Maps, and Artifacts of Japanese American Confinement Sites National Japanese American Historical Society
Behind Barbed Wire: Japanese-American Internment Camp Newspapers The Library of Congress
Yellow Power: The Origins of Asian America Densho
Redress and Reparations for Japanese American Incarceration National WWII Museum

Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.

Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.

Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.

Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.

Compare the point of view of two or more authors for how they treat the same or similar topics, including which details they include and emphasize in their respective accounts.

Assess the extent to which the reasoning and evidence in a text support the author’s claims.

Determine the kinds of sources that will be helpful in answering compelling and supporting questions, taking into consideration multiple points of view represented in the sources, the types of sources available, and the potential uses of the sources.

Distinguish the powers and responsibilities of local, state, tribal, national, and international civic and political institutions.

Analyze the impact and the appropriate roles of personal interests and perspectives on the application of civic virtues, democratic principles, constitutional rights, and human rights.

Analyze how people use and challenge local, state, national, and international laws to address a variety of public issues.

Analyze the impact of constitutions, laws, treaties, and interna-tional agreements on the maintenance of national and international order.

Explain how the U.S. Constitution establishes a system of government that has powers, responsibilities, and limits that have changed over time and that are still contested.

Evaluate citizens’ and institutions’ effectiveness in addressing social and political problems at the local, state, tribal, national, and/or international level.

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