Bay Area middle school may be renamed for Fred Korematsu

School board has plans to rename Portola Middle School for Japanese American civil rights hero

Some cool news out of the Bay Area... A new middle school campus in El Cerrito has plans to be renamed for the late civil rights hero Fred Korematsu, who hailed from the area and was arrested for his refusal to cooperate with the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.

El Cerrito middle school may be renamed for Japanese American rights advocate

Korematsu, who was born in Oakland in 1919 and grew up in San Leandro, was arrested for defying the government's wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans. He appealed his case all the way to the Supreme Court, challenging the legality of the internment, but lost. Decades later, in 1983, Korematsu was vindicated when his case was overturned. It was a landmark moment in civil rights history.

The plan to rename Portola Middle School after Korematsu will be on the agenda for consideration by the West Contra Costa school board next week.

School board member Todd Groves said the board plans to form a committee at the May 14 meeting that will investigate the merits of naming the school after Korematsu, prepare the necessary documentation and present the proposal to the full board for a vote.

"We're going to draw up the background (around Korematsu) and do a little education as to what the significance is," Groves said. "A lot of civil rights leaders went unacknowledged, and he was one of them."

Ramsey said there is a precedent in the district for changing school names to honor historic figures as they emerge and make them more relevant to new generations of students.
I don't know how you kids are feeling about this out there in El Cerrito, but I think it would be an honor to attend Fred Korematsu Middle School. Here's hoping the decision goes through, if only because it provides an ongoing opportunity to talk about his important legacy.

To learn more about Fred Korematsu, and the continued efforts to tell his story for future generations, visit the website of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute for Civil Rights and Education.

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