Gordon Hirabayashi was an American-born student at the University of Washington in 1942, when he was ordered in his senior year to report to an internment camp in northern California. He refused.
Only a handful of remarkably courageous individuals defied the internment orders. Hirabayashi was not only the youngest; his decision was a clear act of civil disobedience based on his deeply held pacifist beliefs.
In every respect, Hirobayashi’s defiance made him a civil rights hero. He died last week in Edmonton, Alberta, at the age of 93.
Some 120,000 Japanese Americans were interned in America’s concentration camps — a shameful act of wartime hysteria based on racial prejudice. Hirabayashi challenged the curfew he was subject to and the internment order.
“If I were to register and cooperate… I would be giving helpless consent to the denial of practically all of the things which give me incentive to live,” he said then. “I must maintain the democratic standards for which this nation lives. I am objecting to the principle of this order which denies the right of human beings, including citizens.”