Dialogue, Denial, Decision: Mock Trial of Fred Korematsu

Author: Mark Edward Hansen

Suggested Grade Level(s): 11, 12

Suggested Subject Area(s): U.S. History, Government, Civics

Number of Class Periods Required: 6 class periods (block scheduling, 90 minutes per period) or 12 class periods (45 minutes per period)

Essential Question:
In time of war, how should the government balance national security and individual liberties?

Teacher Overview:
This unit asks students to think critically about a time in our nation’s history when, following the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, decisions by our President affected more than 110,000 people of Japanese descent. The first two lessons introduce students to Fred Korematsu and his story and ask them to think about who is American and what the rights and responsibilities of Americans are. Then students work together to prepare for and participate in a mock trial loosely based on Fred Korematsu’s federal district case, which took place in California in 1942; this trial preceded the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Korematsu v. United States, originally tried in 1944 and overturned in 1983. The students will weigh issues related to Mr. Korematsu»s violation of Civilian Exclusion Order No. 34, as well as the constitutionality of the removal and confinement of the Japanese Americans during World War II.

Ultimately, it is hoped that the mock trial will help students better understand the Japanese Americans’ World War II predicament: despite all attempts to show their loyalty and patriotism to the United States, they were put into concentration camps. It is also hoped that this unit will afford the opportunity to discuss how other Americans came to their aid.

Download the entire “Dialogue, Denial, Decision: Mock Trial of Fred Korematsu” unit (4.7 MB)


Resources and References