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History of AAPI-Black Solidarity

A Kindred People

“We are a kindred people, African and Asian Americans. We share a history of migration, interaction and cultural sharing, and commerce and trade. We share a history of European colonization, decolonization, and independence under neocolonization and dependency. We share a history of oppression in the United States, successively serving as slave and cheap labor, as peoples excluded and absorbed, as victims of mob rule and Jim Crow. We share a history of struggle for freedom and the democratization of America, of demands for equality and human dignity, of insistence on making real the promise that all men and women are created equal. We are a kindred people, forged in the fire of white supremacy and struggle, but how can we recall that kinship when our memories have been massaged by white hands, and how can we remember the past when our storytellers have been whispering amid the din of Western civilization and Anglo-conformity?”

Gary Okihiro
from “Is Yellow Black or White?” in Margins and Mainstreams: Asians in American History and Culture.

Our History

Rev. Frederick Douglass Spoke Up Against a Proposed Chinese immigration Ban

When a Ban on the Chinese Was Proposed and Frederick Douglass Spoke Out

Rev. Frederick Douglass: Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) was an escaped slave and African Methodist Episcopal Zion preacher, who was also known as a national leader of the abolitionist movement and prominent ally of Republican Party leaders. He was a firm believer in the equality of all peoples, be they white, black, female, Native American or Chinese immigrants, as well as a firm believer in dialogue and making alliances across racial and ideological divides. When conservatives argued for walling off the Chinese from immigrating to the U.S., Frederick Douglass felt compelled to speak up on behalf of Chinese immigrants through his delivery of an immigration lecture in Boston in 1867. The next year, the U.S. signed a treaty agreement with China to open up trade with China, which lasted for 12 years until the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act.

W. E. B. Du Bois on Asia
A collection of Du Bois’s essays, journalism, and memoir on the Asian world, including accounts of his trips to China and Japan. Du Bois believed strongly that Asia would play a central role in determining the fates of races, nations, and world systems of power.

W.E.B. Du William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (“W.E.B. Du Bois”)(1868-1963) was an African American professor of history, sociology and economics, and one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) when it was founded in 1909, This collection demonstrates Du Bois’s belief of the eternal relationship between Asian and Africa dating from antiquity to the postcolonial era, and is the most important African American reader of Asia’s place in the making of the modern world.

Black and Japanese Americans during and after WWII
The repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act in conjunction with efforts of Chinese immigrants to resist poor treatment and pay by white employers, led to decreased cheap labor. Sugar plantation owners in the South in particular targeted Japan as their next best potential source of labor. Unfortunately, as Japanese immigration to the U.S. increased, they became targets of the same groups responsible for prior anti-Chinese sentiment. However, due to Japan’s rising international status and growing military power, U.S. officials were hesitant to discriminate openly against Japanese immigrants. As a result, immigration policies aimed at the Japanese such as the 1907 “Gentlemen’s Agreement” didn’t specifically or exclusively single out Japan even though Japanese immigrants were disproportionately affected. Also, officials who were quick to accuse the Chinese as racially inferior and inassimilable often stopped short of making same accusations against the Japanese. Instead, the Japanese were characterized as too culturally different to become full-fledged members of American society. This led to direct consequences during WWII when Japanese Americans were depicted by the mass media as foreign and monolithic, setting the groundwork for incarcerating all individuals of Japanese ancestry as an act of “military necessity” through President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 (EO 9066).

The adoption of EO 9066 in 1942 during World War II led to the fates of Blacks and Japanese Americans crossing in ways that neither group could have anticipated.

At the same time that some 110,000 Japanese Americans were forced to leave the West Coast to be incarcerated in inland concentration camps during WWII in 1942, African Americans from the South migrated to the West Coast due to labor shortages in the defense industry in search of work. In Los Angeles, Little Tokyo was one of the few places available to African Americans to live in due to restrictive covenants in white neighborhoods banning rent or sale of land to people of color.

Growing Up Japanese American in Crenshaw and Leimert Park after WWII

Beyond Little Tokyo, both Crenshaw and Leimert Park became hubs of African American and Japanese American political activism.through the 1970s, and were forerunners to numerous Japanese and Asian American community organizations, social service agencies, and political associations. Many who participated in them became lifelong activists and community advocates.

Black and Indian Solidarity
Beyond Gandhi and King: The Secret History of South Asian and African American Solidarity

South Asians and African Americans have been standing up for each other for over a century. MLK’s use of Gandhian nonviolence is all we’re taught about African American and South Asian history. But the story goes way beyond Gandhi and King, to include:
Horace R. Cayton, Jr. Bayard Rustin, Black Bengalis, Ram Monohar Lohia, Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, South Asians for Black Lives, Dalit Panther, W.E.B. Du Bois, B.R. Ambedkar, and Martin Luther King, Jr., Langston Hughes, Jawaharlal, Nehru, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, James Lawson, K.A. Abbas, Mary McLeod Bethune, Anagarika Dharmapala, Sue Bailey Thurman, Mira Nair.

Working with Martin Luther King, Jr.

Rev. Abraham Kahikina Akaka: The Untold Story of Why MLK Wore a Hawaiian Lei at Selma: Leis and Civil Rights

Rev. Abraham Kahikina Akaka (1917-1997) was a Hawaiian-Chinese pastor of Kawaiahaʻo Church in Honolulu and former board member of the overseas arm of the United Church of Christ. In 1962, he was appointed the first Chair of the Hawaii Advisory Committee in the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. In his role, he joined Dr. King on the 1963 March on Washington, D.C. In the lead-up to the March from Selma to Montgomery in Alabama, as President Lyndon Johnson was making preparations to protect demonstrators with military police and the Alabama National Guard, Rev. Akaka sent gifts of bright white double carnation leis to be draped on the marchers. For Rev. Akaka, it was a symbolic gesture that affirmed Asian American support for the Civil Rights Movement. a

Todd Endo: Faith and Activism, Step by Step: Reflections from the Last Surviving Japanese American Who Walked in the 1965 Selma Protest

Todd Endo (1941- ) is a Japanese American faith-rooted community organizer who spent the first three years of his life incarcerated at a WWII concentration camp in Rohwer, Arkansas. Growing up, he heard stories about the injustices his family faced at the WWII concentration camps, but his mother taught him not to focus on Japanese American affairs alone. At age 21, Endo and his mother marched with the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) in the 1963 March on Washington, D.C. where he heard the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his “I Have A Dream” speech firsthand, which helped bring about the Civil Rights Act of 1964. JACL was the only known Asian American civic organization that participated in the march. Prompted by the death of his acquaintance Rev. Jim Reeb, Endo also joined Dr. King a couple years later in the 1965 March on Selma which helped bring about the Voting Rights Act. Mr. Endo recognized that Dr. King was foremost a “minister of the gospel”, and saw the Civil Rights Movement as heavily influenced by Christian leaders, To Mr. Endo, his participation in the march was in response to a direct call of Jesus to be on the side of the poor, the disenfranchised, and the oppressed. And in the South in 1965, it was so clear to him that it was African Americans who were poor, disenfranchised, discriminated against, and oppressed.

Steven Kiyoshi Kuromiya

Steven Kiyoshi Kuromiya (1943-2000) is a Japanese American civil rights and anti-war activist who spent the first two years of his life in a WWII concentration camp in Wyoming. He was a personal assistant to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and served as a delegate to the Black Panther Convention.

Birth of Asian America

Third World Liberation Front (TWLF)

The formation of the Third World Liberation Fronts in San Francisco and Berkeley in the late 1960s were unprecedented coalitions of Black, Chicano, Asian, and Native American students. For the first time in history, racial minorities maintained their alliance for many months, enduring arrests, injuries, and tear gas until their demands were won. Many of the demands won, including for universities to establish new departments devoted to ethnic studies, hire more non-white faculty, and accept more non-white students, have been maintained for forty years by Ethnic Studies departments and divisions.

The Forgotten Zine of 1960s Asian-American Radicals

Establishing the Asian-American identity in America took more than meetings—it took a magazine. Mike Murase and four fellow UCLA students (Dinora Gil, Laura Ho, Tracy Okida, and Colin Watanabe) started an independent paper Gidra in response to anti-Asian sentiment at the university and the greater Los Angeles. Gidra was published from 1969 until 1974, and dealt with Asian Pacific American community events and other related issues and themes. The paper was first handed out at local campuses and at local community meetings, marches, and speeches, and grew to include up to 250 people who would volunteer to produce the paper from month to month, among them students and community organizers.

All 66 Issues of Gidra can be accessed from the Gidra Collection of the Densho Digital Repository at:
2011 interview clips of Mike Murase regarding Gidra can be accessed at the Japanese American National Museum’s Website at::

Yuri Kochiyama With Malcolm X
Not Just a ‘Black Thing’: An Asian-American Bond With Malcolm X

Yuri Kochiyama (1921-2014) was a Japanese American, who grew up attending a Presbyterian church and teaching Sunday School. She spent two years in her 20’s incarcerated at WWII concentration camps, first at Santa Anita, California where her family was forced to live in horse stables, and later at Jerome, Arkansas. Her time incarcerated at the two concentration camps in the segregated South prompted her to see the parallels between the treatment of Japanese Americans during World War II and African Americans in the Deep South. As the Civil Rights Movement grew in the 1960’s, she invited activists to speak at weekly open houses at her family apartment in Harlem, New York, and also worked with the Harlem Parent’s Committee, organizing school boycotts to demand quality education for inner-city children. Her journalism and English majors and art minor served her well as a writer for Movement newspapers and illustrator of picket signs. Later in 1963, Kochiyama met Malcolm X. Inspired by his international human rights perspective based on self-determination and self-reliance, she stayed in touch with Malcolm X through postcards and even a visit to the Kochiyamas’ apartment. Kochiyama was also with Malcolm X during his final moments; a famous photograph in Life magazine shows Kochiyama holding Malcolm X’s head in her hands just shortly after he was assassinated.
2009 interview clips of Yuri Kohiyama can be accessed at the Densho Digital Repository at:
In 2014, President Baraka Obama’s Administration honored Kochiyama on its website for dedicating “her life to the pursuit of social justice, not only for the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, but all communities of color:

Grace Lee Boggs and Black Power Movement

In the 1960s, Grace Lee Boggs was active in the Black Power movement in Detroit.

Meet the Chinese American Woman Who Helped Lead the Black Power Movement

Bruce Lee as a Symbol of solidarity with the Black community

Lee Jun Fan (aka Bruce Lee)(1940-1973) was a Hong Kong American martial artist and actor. Lee’s legacy ]has always extended across color lines, with the martial artist and actor attaining legendary status among many different groups, particularly African Americans. Lee’s understanding of the systemic oppression that African Americans faced was largely influenced by his students and friends who confronted those very challenges, including his assistant instructor Jesse Glover, a black man who had been a victim of police brutality. He also had a well-known friendship with the Hall-of-Fame NBA player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who used his voice to become a civil rights advocate, including boycotting the 1968 Summer Olympics in protest of injustices toward black Americans.

Jesse Jackson Supported the Protests for Vincent Chin

Rev. Jesse Jackson took time from his presidential bid to show support for the national campaign to seek Justice for Vincent Chin

After LA Riots/Uprising Korean and Black Churches Came Together


Boggs, Grace Lee. Living for Change

Fujino, Diane C. Yuri Kochiyama: Heartbeat of Struggle

Ho, Fred and Bill V. Mullen (eds). Afro Asia: Revolutionary Political and Cultural Connections between African Americans and Asian Americans

Maeda, Daryl J. Chains of Babylon: The Rise of Asian America

Mullen, Bill V. and Cathryn Watson (eds). W. E. B. Du Bois on Asia: Crossing the World Color Line

Okihiro, Gary. “Is Yellow Black or White?” in Margins and Mainstreams: Asians in American History and Culture

Prashad, Vijay. The Karma of Brown Folk

Prashad, Vijay. Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting: Afro-Asian Connections and the Myth of Cultural Purity

Slate, Nico. Colored Cosmopolitanism: The Shared Struggle for Freedom in the United States and India