Asian American movement

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The Asian American movement was a sociopolitical movement in which the widespread grassroots effort of Asian Americans effected racial, social and political change in the U.S, reaching its peak in the late 1960s to mid-1970s. During this period Asian Americans promoted antiwar and anti-imperialist activism, directly opposing what was viewed as an unjust Vietnam war. The American Asian Movement (AAM) differs from previous Asian American activism due to its emphasis on Pan-Asianism and its solidarity with U.S. and international Third World movements such as the Third World Liberation Front (TWLF).

Daryl Joji Maeda states that, "Its founding principle of coalition politics emphasizes solidarity among Asians of all ethnicities, multiracial solidarity among Asian Americans as well as with African, Latino, and Native Americans in the United States, and transnational solidarity with peoples around the globe impacted by U.S. militarism".[1]

The movement was initially student-based, emerging simultaneously on various college campuses and urban communities. The AAM was largely concentrated in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, and New York City but even extended as far as Honolulu. The movement created community service programs, art, poetry, music, and other creative works; offered a new sense of self-determination; raised the political and racial consciousness of Asian Americans.[2]


Prior to the 1960s Asian immigrants found themselves living under the specter of the Yellow Peril in the U.S for over a century. During this period in time the racist ideology rooted in colonialism lead to the wide spread belief in the U.S. that Asians immigrants posed a threat to western civilization, this belief resulted in the mistreatment and abuse of Asian people across generations. Historical incidents like the Chinese exclusion Act , Japanese internment camps and the Vietnam War added to the list of grievances many Asian Americans had with U.S society in the years leading up to the AAM.[3]

In the years that preceded the AAM Asian Americans were regularly lumped together solely for the purposes of exclusion in America despite having many different ethnic and cultural backgrounds . The majority of U.S. society viewed Asian Americans as "perpetual foreigners".[3]

Though activism against this discrimination was a part of Asian culture before the 1960s it was limited in scope and lacking a wide base of support.[3] Class-based politics aimed to gain better wages and working conditions; homeland politics attempted to bolster the international standings of their nations of origins or free them from colonial rule; assimilationist politics attempted to demonstrate that Asians were worthy of the rights and privileges of citizenship.[1] In the early to mid-1960's, a number of individual Asian Americans activists such as Yuri Kochiyama participated individually in the Free Speech Movement, Civil Rights Movement, and anti-Vietnam War movement. These instances of social and political activism did not directly address issues facing all Asian Americans at the time. Asian immigrants were largely divided in America, before the 60's there was very little solidarity between the various Asian immigrant communities. These disparate groups dealt largely with issues concerning their own ethnic communities and conclaves focusing the majority of their efforts on survival in their exclusionary environment.[3] As a result of these factors pre-60's era activism never rose to the level of a movement.

The Asian American Political Alliance (AAPA)[edit]

Yuji Ichioka and Emma Gee founded the Asian American Political Alliance (AAPA) and first used the term "Asian American" in the process. Because Asian Americans had been called Orientals before 1968, the formation of the AAPA challenged the use of the pejorative term. According to Karen Ishizuka, the label "Asian American" was "an oppositional political identity imbued with self-definition and empowerment, signaling a new way of thinking: "Unlike prior activism the AAM and by extension organizations like the AAPA embraced a pan-Asian focus within their organization accepting members from Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino communities regardless of whether they were born in America or immigrants.[1] The promotion of a pan Asian ideology brought together the formerly separated groups within Asian American communities to combat a common racial oppression experienced in the nation.

They drew upon influences from the Black Power and antiwar movements, activists within the Asian American movement declared solidarity with other races of people in the United States and abroad. Activists like Richard Aoki for example, served as a Field Marshal of the Black Panther Party prior to helping to form AAPA. Significantly, global decolonization and Black Power helped create the political conditions needed to link pan-Asianism to Third World internationalism.[1][3] Segments of the movement struggled for community control of education, provided social services and defended affordable housing in Asian ghettos, organized exploited workers, protested against U.S. imperialism, and built new multi-ethnic cultural institutions.[1]

At the AAPA Rally on July 28, 1968, Richard Aoki gave a speech that summarized the organization's ideology:

We Asian-Americans believe that American society has been, and still is, fundamentally a racist society, and that historically we have accommodated ourselves to this society in order to survive...

We Asian-Americans support all non-white liberation movements and believe that all minorities, in order to be truly liberated, must have complete control over the political, economic, and social institutions within their respective communities.

We Asian Americans oppose the imperialist policies being pursued by the American government...[4]

Ichioka and Gee included the words "political" and "alliance" in their group's name to emphasize its pan-Asian focus, its anti-imperialist stance, and its membership in the Third World Liberation Front.[5][6]

Key figures[edit]

Key organizations[edit]

See also[edit]

Categories: Asian- American movement activists


  1. ^ a b c d e Maeda, Daryl Joji (2016-06-09). The Asian American Movement. doi:10.1093/acrefore/9780199329175.013.21.
  2. ^ J., Maeda, Daryl (2012). Rethinking the Asian American movement. New York: Routledge. ISBN 9780415800815. OCLC 641536912.
  3. ^ a b c d e 1948-, Liu, Michael,. The Snake Dance of Asian American Activism : Community, Vision, and Power. Geron, Kim, 1951-, Lai, Tracy A. M., 1951-. Lanham, Maryland. ISBN 0739127195. OCLC 231680155.
  4. ^ "AAPA Rally July 28, 1968". Asian American Movement 1968. January 15, 2008. Retrieved December 31, 2016.
  5. ^ "Asian American Political Alliance 1968". January 15, 2008. Retrieved December 31, 2016.
  6. ^ "SF State College Strike: Asian American Political Alliance". San Francisco State University. October 6, 2009. Retrieved December 31, 2016.