Ronald Takaki

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Ronald Takaki
Ronald Takaki (crop).jpg
Takaki at Northeastern University in 2007
BornApril 12, 1939 (1939-04-12)
DiedMay 26, 2009(2009-05-26) (aged 70)
Alma materCollege of Wooster
UC Berkeley
EmployerUC Berkeley
Known forEthnic studies author
Carol Rankin
(m. 1961)

Ronald Toshiyuki Takaki (April 12, 1939 – May 26, 2009) was an American academic, historian, ethnographer and author. Born in pre-statehood Hawaii, Takaki studied at the College of Wooster and completed his doctorate in American history at the University of California, Berkeley.

His work addresses stereotypes of Asian Americans, such as the model minority concept.[1] Among his most notable books are Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian-Americans from 1989 and A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America from 1993. Takaki was a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles from 1966 to 1971 and University of California, Berkeley from 1971 to 2003.

Early life[edit]

Born in 1939 in Hawaii Territory, Takaki grew up in the Palolo neighborhood of Honolulu.[2] He was the descendant of Japanese immigrants who worked on the sugarcane plantations.[3] His father, Harry Toshio Takaki, immigrated to Hawaii from Mifune, Kumamoto, Japan as a teenager and worked at a plantation in Puʻunene before studying under Ray Jerome Baker and opening his own photography studio.[4] Harry died when Ronald was five, and Ronald's mother married Koon Keu Young, an immigrant from Guangdong, China who became Ronald's stepfather.[5][6] As a young boy, Takaki cared more for surfing than academics, earning the nickname "10-toes Takaki." During high school a Japanese American teacher, Rev. Shunji Nishi Ph.D[7] encouraged him to pursue college and wrote him a letter of recommendation for the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio.[5]

His undergraduate experiences there caused him to begin asking the kinds of questions which evolved into the foundation of his career.[8] As one of only two Asian Americans on campus, he gained a new awareness of his ethnic identity.[5] He was awarded a bachelor's degree in history in 1961.[9]

Takaki then began graduate studies in American history at the University of California, Berkeley and completed his master's degree in 1962 and Ph.D. in 1967.[1] His dissertation was on the subject of American slavery, focusing on the rationale for slavery.[3] This work later became his first book: A Pro-Slavery Crusade: the Agitation to Reopen the African Slave Trade.[10]

Takaki's personal experiences inspired him to devote his life to working for equality for Asian Americans and others. A seminal event in his life developed when his wife's family refused to accept him because they could only see him as a "jap"—not as a native-born American citizen just like any one else.[8]

Academic career[edit]

His initial teaching experience was in 1966 at the University of California at Los Angeles, where he taught the first Black History course offered at that institution.[1][2] When recalling his first day teaching this course, he stated, "When I walked into the classroom I discovered it was held in a huge auditorium - 500 seats and every seat was taken, and students were sitting in the aisles, and there was a loud chitter-chatter, the students were excited...As I made my way to the front of the auditorium all of a sudden a silence descended in this room and their eyes were riveted on me and I could just feel them saying to themselves, 'Funny, he doesn't look black'."[11] One of his students on the first day asked what the class was going to learn about "revolutionary tactics," and he later recalled that his immediate response was to suggest that he hoped students would learn skills of critical thinking and effective writing—and that these could be quite revolutionary.[8]

In 1971, he accepted a teaching position at Berkeley where his general survey course, "Racial Inequality in America: a Comparative Perspective," led the development of an undergraduate ethnic studies major and an ethnic studies Ph.D. program.[1][2] For the next three decades, he continued to be an important contributor in the growth of the program. He was involved in developing the school's multicultural requirement for graduation: the American Cultures Requirement.[12] The long-time Professor of Asian American Studies retired in 2003.[2]

Personal life[edit]

Takaki married Carol Rankin in 1961; they met as students at the College of Wooster. They had three children.[10] Takaki died of suicide on 26 May 2009 in Berkeley, California after suffering from multiple sclerosis for nearly 20 years, according to his son Troy.[5]



See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Aguirre, Adalberto. (2003). Racial and Ethnic Diversity in America: A Reference Handbook, p. 125.
  2. ^ a b c d Anwar, Yasmin (May 28, 2009). "Ronald Takaki, pioneer and legend in ethnic studies, dies at age 70". UC Berkeley. Archived from the original on May 30, 2009. Retrieved July 21, 2021.
  3. ^ a b Ravitz, Jessica (June 3, 2009), "How '10-toes Takaki' changed U.S. history", CNN, archived from the original on June 3, 2009, retrieved July 23, 2021
  4. ^ Takaki 1998, pp. 173–174, 489.
  5. ^ a b c d Woo, Elaine (May 29, 2009), "Ronald T. Takaki dies at 70; pioneer in the field of ethnic studies", The Los Angeles Times, archived from the original on June 11, 2009, retrieved July 21, 2021
  6. ^ Takaki 1998, pp. 36, 504.
  7. ^ Takaki, Ronald. "A Different Mirror: 2006 Whitman College Commencement Address". www Whitman College. Retrieved 10 February 2015.
  8. ^ a b c "In Depth with Ronald Takaki". C-SPAN. 28 February 2009. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
  9. ^ University of Richmond: Takaki bio notes. Archived 2010-06-09 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ a b Takaki, Carol Rankin (July 22, 2009). "Ronald Takaki - a Multicultural Life". AsianWeek. Archived from the original on January 31, 2011. Retrieved July 21, 2021.
  11. ^ "America in a Different Mirror with Ronald Takaki". 2004-11-17. Retrieved 2015-01-21.
  12. ^ a b Hyman, Carol. "UC Berkeley Professor Ronald Takaki wins Fred Cody Award for lifetime literary achievement, service to community." UC Berkeley Press Release. November 18, 2002.
  13. ^ AAAS, Book award, Hawii, 2009: Lifetime Achievement Award
  14. ^ a b Quintero, Fernando. "Telling the Untold Stories: Ronald Takaki's 'Re-visioning' of History Turns Anglo-Centric Views Inside Out," UC Berkeley Press Release. May 24, 1995.

External links[edit]