NORMAN, OKLA. – The University of Oklahoma College of Law on Monday will present a screening of the award-winning documentary, “And Then They Came for Us,” which chronicles the forced incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. The film features the stories of many who were imprisoned, including Fred Korematsu, who resisted the government’s detainment order and challenged its constitutionality, which the U.S. Supreme Court infamously upheld.
The event will be held Monday, Oct. 7, in the Dick Bell Courtroom at OU Law. The documentary will be shown at 5:30 p.m. after opening remarks from OU Interim President Joseph Harroz Jr.
Following the screening, a panel discussion at approximately 6:45 p.m. will feature:
- Karen Korematsu – daughter of Fred Korematsu and founder and executive director of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute
- Don Tamaki – an attorney who served on the pro bono team that persuaded a district court to vacate Fred Korematsu’s conviction decades after the Supreme Court upheld it
- Taiawagi Helton – Professor of Law, W. DeVier Pierson Professor of Law, OU College of Law
- Rick Tepker – Professor of Law, Floyd and Irma Calvert Chair of Law and Liberty, OU College of Law
The discussion will be moderated by Joseph Thai, Presidential Professor of Law and Glenn R. Watson Centennial Chair in Law, OU College of Law. The panel will reflect on the relevance of this grave historical episode of racial injustice to our state – where Japanese Americans were detained at Fort Sill, and Native Americans before them – and to our times.
“Educating our students on the lessons of history – and the sometimes imperfect path of the law – is a crucial component of how we prepare them to become future guardians of the Constitution,” said OU Law Interim Dean Katheleen Guzman. “We are honored to host Dr. Korematsu and Mr. Tamaki, who, along with members of our faculty, will engage our students and the wider community on how the issues of profiling marginalized populations – and speaking out against injustice – are just as important today as they were then.”
The saga of Fred Korematsu’s case began on Feb. 19, 1942, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which authorized what was to become the mass forced removal and incarceration of all Japanese Americans on the West Coast. Fred Korematsu refused to obey the order and was arrested and convicted. In 1944, he appealed his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled against him, deferring to the government’s false claim that the wholesale incarceration of Japanese Americans was justified due to military necessity. His conviction was eventually vacated in 1983, and he remained a civil rights activist throughout his life. In 1998, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. Fred Korematsu died March 30, 2005, at the age of 86.
The screening and panel discussion are co-sponsored by the OU Law student organizations the American Constitution Society, the Asian Pacific Law Students Association and the Native American Law Students Association. It is funded in part through the generous support of the OU Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the OU Division of Student Affairs, the Calvert Chair of Law and Liberty, the Watson Centennial Chair in Law and the American Constitution Society.
“And Then They Came for Us” was released in 2017 and is directed by Abby Ginzberg and Ken Schneider. The film’s honors include the Accolade Global Film 2017 Humanitarian Award, the American Bar Association’s 2018 Silver Gavel Award and the Queens World Film Festival’s 2019 World Social Justice Jury Prize.
The event is complimentary and open to the public. Oklahoma attorneys who attend are eligible to receive two hours of general continuing legal education credit. For more information, email Professor Thai at email@example.com, and to RSVP, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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What led you to OU Law? I have wanted to go to law school since I was a teenager. I was active in speech contests and enjoyed making oral presentations. When I was in high school, I would go downtown and watch some of the trials at the courthouse, so, I got acquainted with the courtroom rather early. I obtained a Navy scholarship to go to OU. I was a regular Navy midshipman then I served three years in the far east before coming back to law school. I wanted to attend law school and came back to OU.
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What led you to OU Law? OU Law has been part of my family since the 1920s. My great uncle was Dr. Maurice Merrill, a 1922 graduate of OU Law who then earned a Doctorate in Law from Harvard University in 1925. Merrill taught at OU Law for 30 years, published numerous seminal works in oil and gas law, constitutional law, administrative law and the law of Notice. While still in his twenties, Merrill published the seminal treatise Implied Covenants in Oil and Gas Law, which has been a cornerstone of my cases. In law school, I lived with Uncle Maurice and marveled at his longhand scrawl which was literally final copy in its first draft form. In my mind, he will always be ten times the lawyer that I ever became.