The 1982 murder of Chinese American Vincent Chin by two white men outraged Asian Americans across the country, leading to pan-ethnic organizing, the activation of a pan-Asian identity, and ongoing fights for civil rights. Learn more about Vincent Chin, his mother - Lily Chin, and the Asian American activism that resulted from this tragedy.
Visit these two sites for an overview of Asian American activism during the 1960s and 1970s. Snapshots of Asian America: A Look at the Movement's Spirit and Legacy and Asian American Activism: The Continuing Struggle
In 1969, a group of students at UCLA created Gidra newspaper. Described as the "Voice of the Asian American Movement," Girdra provided a space for Asian American students to discuss political and social issues related to Asian Americans. Browse the archives and Watch a short video about a special exhibit featuring GIRDRA.
In contemporary U.S. society, the term ‘Asian American’ is often used as a racial descriptor for a diverse set of ethnic groups from the Asian continent and Indian sub-continent. However, its original use had a much more political purpose. Learn who coined the term and why.
On strike! Shut it down! For over four months from November 1968 to March 1969, students, faculty, and activists at San Francisco College strike. They demanded equal access to public higher education, more senior faculty of color, and a new curriculum that would embrace the history and culture of all people including ethnic minorities. African American, Asian American, Chicano, and Native American students at SFSC and UC Berkeley organized the Third World Liberation Front. Watch "On Strike" to learn more.
Did any of the Asian American activism or activists surprise you? How has this month's info changed your view of Asian American activism, if at all? Let us know in the comments.
Two key advocates during the Delano Grape Strike of 1965 - Larry Itliong (1913-1977) and Philip Vera Cruz (1904-1994). Read more about them here.
Setsuko Matsunaga Nishi (1921-2012) was a vocal advocate for Japanese Americans. She helped found the Chicago Resettlers Committee (now known as the Japanese American Service Committee). She also served as the head of the Chicago Council Against Race and Religious Discrimination. Nishi received her PhD in Sociology from the University of Chicago. Listen as Nishi shares her story in an interview for the University of Massachusetts, Boston's Institute for Asian American Studies.
PILGRIMAGE tells the inspiring story of how an abandoned WWII concentration camp for Japanese Americans has been transformed into a symbol of retrospection and solidarity for people of all ages, races and nationalities in our post 9/11 world. For an inside look at Japanese Americans during internment see Dorothea Lange's censored photographs:
Early in 1943 the US Government (the War Relocation Authority) released a questionnaire for those men who were over 17 and interned. It was entitled “Statement of U.S. Citizenship of Japanese American Ancestry.” Within it were the following questions: Question #27 asked: “Are you willing to serve in the armed forces of the United States on combat duty, wherever ordered?” Question #28 asked: “Will you swear unqualified allegiances to the United States of America and faithfully defend the United States from any or all attack by foreign or domestic forces, and forswear any form of allegiance or obedience to the Japanese emperor, or other foreign government, power or organization?” More than 300 men across 10 internment camps refused to serve, answering No-No to Questions 27 and 28.
Explore the history of President Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066, which led to the internment of Japanese Americans. The National Museum of American History presents "Righting a Wrong: Japanese Americans and World War II."
California Alien Land Laws which prohibited “aliens ineligible to citizenship” and the companies whose majority stock was held by them from purchasing agricultural land or leasing such land for more than three years. Japanese Americans and Japanese diplomats protested anti-Japanese legislation. Japanese American associations established counter-movements against anti-Japanese legislation, however Alien Land Laws were not overturned until 1952. Learn more here.
Japanese and Mexican American sugar beet farm workers joined together to form what is thought to be the first multi-ethnic labor union in California's history. The Japanese Mexican Labor Association (JMLA) carried out a successful strike against their employers, even in the face of violence. A request to join the American Federation of Labor would further test their alliance.
In 1898, Wong Kim Ark brings one of the first birthright citizenship cases to court. Learn more here
In the late nineteenth century, Chinese laborers in America were often met with boycotts, intimidation and violence, and the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 sought to prevent them from competing with the American labor force altogether. But the Chinese immigrant community was undeterred. Organizations such as the Zhonghua Huiguan provided financial support and sophisticated legal defense for Chinese laborers that pushed the limits of the Exclusion Act. To learn more about how Chinese Americans were portrayed in media visit Thomas Nast Cartoons.
To learn more about organized Chinese resistance visit here:
In June of 1867, two thousand Chinese railroad workers strike for a week, demanding an end to beatings, increased wages, and work hours equal with whites. Central Pacific breaks the strike when they withhold food supplies to the Chinese, isolated as they were in the high mountains of the Sierras.
To learn more visit this timeline compiled by the North America Project at Stanford University.