What was the price of challenging the United States Government in wartime when the constitutional rights of its citizens were confronted by military exigencies? On May 16, 1942, Gordon Hirabayashi was about to find out the costs of resistance. The son of Japanese immigrants, the Seattle-born Hirabayashi refused to comply with the now infamous Executive Order 9066 following U.S. entry into the Second World War when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Japanese Americans were subject to a curfew and other restrictions before being removed to internment camps. Mr. Hirabayashi purposefully ignored the curfew and refused to register for internment and appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, citing unlawful discrimination against Americans and resident aliens of Japanese descent in violation of the Fifth Amendment.
In its ruling of Hirabayashi v. United States, 320 U.S. 81 (1943), the Court found the Presidential orders and the implementation of the curfew to be constitutional—a protective measure in time of war. Mr. Hirabayashi was sent to a work camp and later to federal prison. Despite the lost, Mr. Hirabayashi remained sanguine. “I never looked at my case as just my own, or just as a Japanese-American case,” he said. “It is an American case, with principles that affect the fundamental human rights of all Americans.”
Gordon Hirabayashi died in 2012 at the age of 93. He lived to see his conviction for failing to register for an internment camp and defying the curfew overturned by a federal appeals court in 1987.
Mr. Hirabayashi’s civil rights battle and indomitable fighting spirit is captured in the play Hold These Truths written by Jeanne Sakata and currently on stage at the Pasadena Playhouse through June 25. Enter the promotional code, LITTLETOKYO, to get 30% of tickets to all shows through June 25. Seats in rows P-S are not included in the discount. Visit www.pasadenaplayhouse.org/holdthesetruths to purchase your tickets today. Tickets start at $25.
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