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Gordon Hirabayashi

Gordon Hirabayashi

Gordon Kiyoshi Hirabayashi

Gordon Hirabayashi is the son of Japanese immigrants, but he was born an American citizen. His life changed when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii in 1941. People of Japanese ancestry were treated as enemies of the United States.

FlagsIn 1942, about 110,000 people were moved to "relocation centers," or internment camps. Most of these people were American citizens of Japanese ancestry. As citizens, they should have been protected by the U.S. Constitution.

It took great personal courage for Gordon Hirabayashi to refuse to move to an internment camp. He turned himself in and was sent to prison.

In 1987, a federal court overturned Hirabayashi's conviction. In 1988, the U.S. Congress apologized for the internment of Japanese-Americans. Hirabayashi said, "As an American citizen, I wanted to uphold the principles of the Constitution....It was not acceptable to be less than a full citizen."

 

Explore History

Find out more about Gordon Hirabayashi and his decision here.

The Big Picture

Sometimes, relationships with other nations affect how people are treated. How does this timeline of Japanese-Americans show this?

Primary Sources

Click on the link that says "Watch a clip" to see and hear Gordon Hirabayashi's own account of what happened to him during World War II.