Gordon Hirabayashi‘s civil disobedience during World War II elevated him to a prominent place in American civil rights history and earned him posthumously the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.
Gordon Hirabayashi 1986. Wikipedia.
Gordon Hirabayashi was a senior at the University of Washington in 1942. He challenged the constitutionality of internment based on race or ancestry. He turned himself in to the FBI rather than report for relocation. He was convicted and sentenced to serve at the honor camp in the Santa Catalina Mountains in Tuscon, Arizona (Coronado National Forest).
The name Prison camp came from the Federal Honor Camp begun in 1937 to house federal prisoners supplying labor to build a road providing access into the Santa Catalina Mountains. Prisoners had been convicted of federal crimes ranging from immigration law violations to tax evasion to bank robbery.
During World War II, many of the prisoners were conscientious objectors whose religions prohibited them from serving in the military. Some were Japanese Americans protesting the “Japanese American Relocation,” the largest forced removal and incarceration in U.S. History. After the Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, over 100,000 Japanese Americans, many American Citizens, were imprisoned in crowded internment camps for fear they would conduct espionage and sabotage along the west coast.
In 1987 Hirabayashi’s case was overturned. A federal commission determined that the internment had been motivated by racial prejudice and wartime hysteria. In 1988 the Civil Liberties Act was signed by President Ronald Reagan, which acknowledged the injustice and apologized for the internment.
In 1999 the Coronado National Forest renamed the site in honor of Dr. Hirabayashi and the other resisters of conscience who were imprisoned there. Dr. Hirabayashi and others attended the dedication ceremony.
Directions: Take the Catalina Highway off Tanque Verde Road in Tucson. Drive 4.2 miles to the Forest boundary and continue approximately 7 miles to the campground. As you go up the mountain, the campground entrance is on your left. Additional information about the area, including recreation information, can be found here.
Submitted by: Hilda Kwan, USFS
civil rights, japanese internment, labor