When National Security Trumps Individual Rights

On December 18, 1944, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down one of its most controversial decisions when it upheld the government’s decision to intern all persons of Japanese ancestry (both alien and nonalien) on the grounds of national security. Over two-thirds of the Japanese in America were citizens and the internment took away their constitutional rights. In this lesson, students evaluate the consequences of past events and decisions related to the Supreme Court case Korematsu v. United States (1944). They consider the challenges involved when trying to balance civil liberties and national security during threatening times and reflect on the lessons learned about civil liberties from the justices in the Korematsu case.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

A Conversation on the Importance of the Japanese Internment Cases

Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony M. Kennedy discuss two landmark cases, Korematsu v. U.S. and Hirabayashi v. U.S., in which the Supreme Court tried to strike a balance between individual rights and national security during wartime. The cases stem from President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1942 executive order that mandated the relocation of Japanese and Japanese Americans to internment camps. This video complements the documentary Korematsu and Civil Liberties.

  • Resource Type: Closed Captions, Video
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Japanese American Internment

On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which gave the military broad powers to ban any citizen from a coastal area stretching from Washington state to California and extending inland into southern Arizona. For the next four years, more than 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry—77,000 of them American citizens—were removed from this area and incarcerated indefinitely without criminal charges or trial. Forty-six years and eight presidents later, on August 10, 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 into law.

  • Resource Type: Primary Sources
  • Subject: Citizenship
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

Korematsu and Civil Liberties

This documentary explores the landmark case Korematsu v. U.S. (1944) concerning the constitutionality of presidential executive order 9066 during World War II that gave the U.S. military the power to ban thousands of American citizens of Japanese ancestry from areas considered important to national security. A PDF lesson plan accompanies this video.

  • Resource Type: Closed Captions, Video
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Korematsu v. United States (1944)

This case summary provides teachers with everything they need to teach about Korematsu v. United States (1944). It contains background information in the form of summaries and important vocabulary at three different reading levels, as well a review of relevant legal concepts, diagram of how the case moved through the court system, and summary of the decision. This resource also includes nine classroom-ready activities that teach about the case using interactive methods.

  • Resource Type: ESL Appropriate, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

The Pursuit of Justice

The Pursuit of Justice book, written by Kermit L. Hall and John J. Patrick, analyzes 30 Supreme Court cases chosen by a group of Supreme Court justices and leading civics educators as the most important for American citizens to understand. An additional 100 significant cases included in state history and civics standards are summarized. The complete book or individuals chapters can be downloaded.

  • Resource Type: Books
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

The Core Documents Collection – Documents and Debates 1865-2009

The Core Documents Collection – Documents and Debates is structured around a series of topics, each based on a question for debate. For each topic, there is a collection of documents that, together, form the basis of argument over that topic – from those who debated it at a given point in American history. Volume One covers 1865-2009.
The goal is to explore a series of critical moments in American history by asking questions for which there are not simple yes/no answers, but instead call for informed discussion and rational debate. The Documents and Debates readers also include appendices of additional documents, and together are a perfect fit for any American History survey course, including AP U.S. History.

  • Resource Type: Primary Sources
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy, Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: 10, 11, 12