Internment Camp Civil Rights Rebel Gordon Hirabayashi Dies at 93
Gordon Kiyoshi Hirabayashi (April 23, 1918 – January 2, 2012) was an American sociologist, best known for his principled resistance to the Japanese American internment during World War II, and the court case which bears his name, Hirabayashi v. United States.
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Early lifeHirabayashi was born in Seattle to a Christian family who were associated with the Mukyōkai Christian Movement. He graduated from Auburn High School in Auburn, Washington, and in 1937 went to the University of Washington, where he received his degree. At the University he participated in the YMCA and became a religious pacifist.
Although he at first considered accepting internment, he ultimately became one of three to openly defy it. He joined the Quaker-run American Friends Service Committee. In 1942 he turned himself in to the FBI, and after being convicted for curfew violation was sentenced to 90 days in prison. He did this in part to appeal the verdict all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court with the backing of the ACLU. However the court unanimously ruled against him in Hirabayashi v. United States in 1943. Curiously they would not pay for him being sent to prison so he hitchhiked to the Arizona prison where he was sentenced to reside. Once there they stated they lacked the sufficient papers as he was two weeks late. They considered letting him just go home, but he feared this would look suspicious. After that they made the suggestion he could go out for dinner and a movie which would give them time to find his papers. He agreed to this and, by the time he finished doing so, they had found the relevant paperwork.
Hirabayashi later spent a year in federal prison for refusing induction into the armed forces, contending that a questionnaire sent to Japanese-Americans demanding renunciation of allegiance to the emperor of Japan was racially discriminatory because other ethnic groups were not asked about adherence to foreign leaders.
Celebrating the Life and Work of Gordon Hirabayashi
The American Friends Service Committee mourns the passing of Gordon Hirabayashi, a civil rights icon, Friend, and former AFSC staff member, on January 2, 2012.His deep convictions made him challenge the authority of a military decree to intern Japanese Americans on the West Coast during World War II - thus raising the most profound issues that can be raised concerning American citizenship.
“When my case was before the Supreme Court in 1943, I fully expected that as a citizen the Constitution would protect me. Surprisingly, even though I lost, I did not abandon my beliefs and values,” he is quoted as saying in the 1988 book The Courage of Their Convictions: Sixteen Americans Who Found Their Way to the Supreme Court.
“And I never look at my case as just my own, or just as a Japanese-American case. It is an American case, with principles that affect the fundamental human rights of all Americans.”
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