Lesson Plan: Landmark Supreme Court Case: Korematsu v United States

Korematsu v. United States - Prejudice Against Asian Immigrants Prior to 1940

Peter Irons and Karen Korematsu discuss prejudice against Asian immigrants prior to the beginning of World War II.


The Supreme Court has the power to interpret the Constitution. Its rulings on cases determine the meaning of laws and acts of Congress and the president. Knowing the key decisions of the Supreme Court and the precedents they set is vital in understanding the meaning of laws, how our country has changed over time, and the direction the country is currently headed. In this lesson students will examine the case of Korematsu v. United States.


  • STEP 1.

    As a class, view the video on the background of the case and answer the questions below to lay the foundation for students to understand this case:

    VIDEO CLIP: Prejudice Against Asian Immigrants Prior to 1940 (4:00)

    • According to Peter Irons, how were Asian immigrants perceived and treated in the U.S. around the turn of the 20th century?

    • Explain the conflicting reactions among some Americans shortly after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December 1941. What action did President Roosevelt take?

    • According to Karen Korematsu, why did Japanese people immigrate to the U.S. and what impact did this have?
  • STEP 2.

    Students can either work independently or in groups to view the following video clips. They should take notes using the handout below:

    HANDOUT: Supreme Court Case: Korematsu v. United States (Google Doc)

  • VIDEO CLIP: Executive Order 9066 (3:49)

    • Describe the Japanese American experience that is presented in the government film.

    • What was the reaction among people in this country?
  • VIDEO CLIP: Fred Korematsu Background (9:21)

    Describe Fred Korematsu's experience as an American citizen prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
    • Explain Executive Order 9066.

    • Explain the consequences for Japanese Americans who refused to comply with the order.

    • Describe the Korematsu family's experience before and after the exclusion order.

    • Explain the legal steps that were taken with Fred Korematsu's case.
  • VIDEO CLIP: Heart of the Case (2:19)

    • According to Peter Irons, what was the main issue at the heart of the Korematsu case?

    • Why is Korematsu v. United States considered a Landmark case?
  • VIDEO CLIP: 2 Central Questions and the Case Decision (4:18)

    • What were the specific questions before the Supreme Court? How did the Court rule on those questions?

    • Summarize the majority opinion and minority dissent.
  • VIDEO CLIP: Legacy (5:22)

    • According to Peter Irons, what lessons have been learned since the 1944 Supreme Court decision in the Korematsu case?

    • According to Mr. Irons, how do the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses prevent the internment of a group of people based on race?

    • Describe the current process of detaining an individual in the U.S. who is perceived as a credible threat to national security.
  • STEP 3.

    As a class, discuss the significance of this case, the precedent it set, and its legacy.

  • STEP 4.

    Choose an activity from C-SPAN Classroom's Deliberations site to engage in a structured student-centered analysis of the case.

Additional Resources


  • Birthright Citizen
  • Chinese Exclusion Act
  • Concentration Camp
  • Due Process
  • Habeas Corpus
  • Internment
  • Judicial Review
  • Nativist
  • Naturalized


Judicial BranchSupreme Court Cases


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