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When Justice Failed: The Fred Korematsu Story (book)

Creators: Steven A. Chin

Book cover. Courtesy of Steck-Vaughn Company
View in the Densho Encyclopedia

Biography for children of activist and exclusion challenger Fred Korematsu by journalist Steven A. Chin.


When Justice Failed is divided into eleven short chapters, along with an afterword. Chin begins the book with the story of Karen Korematsu, Fred's daughter, learning about her father's story in a high school class in the 1960s, at first disbelieving, then angered by not having been told before. She rushes home to question her parents, setting the story in motion. Subsequent chapters tell Fred Korematsu's story in more or less chronological fashion, beginning with his upbringing as a Nisei on the family flower farm in 1930s, continuing on to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Fred's decision to disobey exclusion orders, and his subsequent arrest, imprisonment, and trials. Chin also tells the larger story of the forced removal and incarceration, including descriptions of life at the Tanforan Assembly Center and Topaz , Utah, concentration camp through Fred's eyes. After the U.S. Supreme Court decides to uphold his conviction, he returns with his wife Kathryn to California, raises his family and goes on with his life. The final chapter recounts the reopening of his case in the 1980s and the ultimate vacating of his conviction.

The afterword includes some information on sources for the book—mainly interviews with Korematsu and his family members—and also includes detailed information on many aspect of history largely left out of the main text, including the anti-Japanese movement , additional background on the road to Executive Order 9066 , the loyalty questionnaire and its aftermath, and the redress movement among other topics.

David Tamura's drawings illustrate the book, with twelve full page reproductions depicting various scenes from Fred's life augmenting the text. Tamura also provided the cover image.

Additional Information

Author Chin, who grew up in New York, was a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner at the time he wrote the book and came to know Korematsu through his work for the "Examiner . He wrote one other children's book for Steck-Vaughn, Dragon Parade: A Chinese New Year Story (1993), which was set in San Francisco in the 1850s.

The historical accuracy of When Justice Failed is high, with both the specifics of Fred's life and the larger context of Japanese American incarceration presented in a manner that is largely faithful to known facts.

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho
Borrow/Download from Internet Archive

Find in the Digital Library of Japanese American Incarceration

When Justice Failed: The Fred Korematsu Story

This item has been made freely available in the Digital Library of Japanese American Incarceration , a collaborative project with Internet Archive .

Might also like Barbed Wire Baseball by Marissa Moss; Fred Korematsu Speaks Up by Laura Atkins and Stan Yogi; The Japanese American Internment: An Interactive History Adventure by Rachael Hanel

Media Details
Author Steven A. Chin
Illustrator David Tamura
Pages 105
Publication Date 1993
For More Information

For More Information

"Journalist Writes Children's Book on Fred Korematsu." Rafu Shimpo , Dec. 21, 1992, 1. [Article reprinted from Hokubei Mainichi .]