"Citizenship has its responsibilities as well as its privileges, and in time of war the burden is always heavier. Compulsory exclusion of large groups of citizens from their homes, except under circumstances of direst emergency and peril, is inconsistent with our basic governmental institutions. But when under conditions of modern warfare our shores are threatened by hostile forces, the power to protect must be commensurate with the threatened danger."

Justice Black, speaking for the majority 

This case explores the legal concept of equal protection.

After Pearl Harbor was bombed in December 1941, the military feared a Japanese attack on the U.S. mainland. The U.S. government was worried that Americans of Japanese descent might aid the enemy. In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order forcing many people of Japanese descent living on the West Coast to leave their homes and businesses and live in internment camps for the duration of the war. Fred Korematsu, an American citizen of Japanese descent, was arrested and convicted of violating the executive order. Korematsu did not believe his arrest was fair. He challenged his conviction in the courts saying that Congress, the president, and the military authorities did not have the power to issue the relocation orders, and that he was being discriminated against based on his race. The government argued that the evacuation was necessary to protect national security. The federal Appeals Court agreed with the government. Korematsu appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court agreed with government and stated that the need to protect the country was a greater priority than the individual rights of the people of Japanese descent forced into internment camps. 



This section is for teachers.

Use the links below to access:

  • student versions of the activities in .PDF and Word formats
  • how to differentiate and adapt the materials
  • how to scaffold the activities
  • how to extend the activities
  • technology suggestions
  • answers to select activities  

About the Case


Learning Activities

The Case

After the Case


Teacher Resources

Teaching Strategies Used

Landmark Cases Glossary

The LandmarkCases.org glossary compiles all of the important vocab terms from case materials. It is provided as a view-only Google Sheet.

Glossary

Planning Time and Activities

If you have one day . . .

  • Read the background summary (•••, ••, •) and answer the questions.
  • Complete the Classifying Arguments Activity. Discuss which arguments the students find most convincing. You may choose to do the Anatomy of a Case Activity to simplify.
  • For homework, have students read the Key Excerpts from the Majority Opinion and Key Excerpts from the Dissenting Opinion and answer the questions. Follow-up the next day by reviewing the questions with students.

If you have two days . . .

  • Complete all activities for the first day (excluding the homework)
  • Complete Document Analysis: Executive Order 9066
  • Complete the Cartoon Analysis Activity.
  • For homework, have students read the Key Excerpts from the Majority Opinion and Key Excerpts from the Dissenting Opinion and answer the questions. Follow-up the next day by reviewing the questions with students.

If you have three days . . .

  • Do all of the activities recommended for days one and two (including homework).
  • Complete Photograph Analysis Activity or Primary Source Analysis Activity.
  • Complete and discuss the A Question of Loyalty activity.
  • Complete the Presidential Powers in Wartime (••) activity. 

If you have four days . . .

  • Do all of the activities recommended for days one, two, and three.
  • Complete Did the Court Err in Korematsu?
  • Complete Congressional Gold Medal Celebration Invitation project.
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