Library of Congress


The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Collection Connections > "Suffering Under a Great Injustice"

Back to Collection Connections

[Detail] Warehouse, Manzanar Relocation Center

Historical Research Capabilities

While most Japanese Americans complied with the evacuation process, as depicted in this collection, a few did not. For example, on March 24, 1942 General De Witt, of the Western Defense Command issued a public proclamation requiring "all alien Japanese, all alien Germans, all alien Italians, and all persons of Japanese ancestry" living within Military Area No. 1 to be "within their place of residence between the hours of 8:00 P.M. and 6:00 A.M." But one Japanese American, Gordon Hirabayashi failed to observe the curfew.

On May 10, De Witt ordered all people of Japanese ancestry to report to a designated assembly point for their evacuation form the military zone. But again, Hirabayashi failed to report to the assembly point and was arrested. Born in Seattle in 1918, Hirabayashi was a United States citizen and believed that obeying the proclamations would be waiving his rights of citizenship.

On May 10 and 11, 1943 the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case of Hirabayashi v. United States, examining whether the legislation compelling Hirabayashi to comply with De Witt's proclamations was constitutional and whether the proclamations unconstitutionally discriminated against citizens of Japanese ancestry. The Court decided unanimously against Hirabayashi. On December 18, 1944 the Court decided six to three against Fred Korematsu in a similar case. Research Hirabayashi v. United States and Korematsu v. United States and answer the following questions:

  • On what grounds did the Court decide in favor of the United States in these two cases?
  • What arguments did Justices Owen Roberts, Frank Murphy, and Robert Jackson present in their dissent in Korematsu?
  • Why do you think that Gordon Hirabayashi and Fred Korematsu won reversal of their 1942 convictions in the 1980s?
  • Why do you think that more Japanese Americans didn't take a stand against the government's actions as an infringement on their rights of citizenship?
  • What does Roy Takeno's New Year's Day editorial in Born Free and Equal suggest about the attitude that most Japanese Americans took towards the government's actions? Why do you think that most of them took this attitude?