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The Asian American Movement

William Wei

Publication Year: 2010

Active for more than two decades, the Asian American movement began a middle-class reform effort to achieve racial equality, social justice, and political empowerment. In this first history and in-depth analysis of the Movement, William Wei traces to the late 1960s, the genesis of an Asian American identity, culture, and activism.

Wei analyzes the Asian American women's movement, the alternative press, Asian American involvement in electoral politics. Interviews with many key participants in the Movement and photographs of Asian American demonstrations and events enliven this portrayal of the Movement's development, breadth, and conflicts.

Published by: Temple University Press


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xi

Clearly, I had erred in her eyes, for she looked at me with disbelief and disappointment. I suspect that she expected an Asian American brother who had participated in some of the same political struggles to express an interest in working on one of the many social issues being discussed at the Midwest Asian American conference we were attending at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in that fall of 1974. I suppose the ...

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pp. xiii-xvi

I am grateful to Sucheng Chan, the general editor of this series, and Judy Yung, my closest friend and colleague, for carefully reading the entire manuscript and offering incisive criticism and copious comments. Being the first-rate scholars that they are, both of them raised significant questions, helping me think through many of my ideas. Thanks also go to Janet Francendese, Joan Vidal, and the rest of the editorial staff of Temple University Press for taking the ...

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pp. 1-10

Each group of Asians in America has had a long history of fighting for equality and justice, using its members' common cultural heritage and ethnic identity as the basis for collective action. Chinese, Filipino, Korea, and Japanese have all mobilized their compatriots by appealing to shared values and customs, in a common language. On this basis they have engaged in labor struggles, ...

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1. Origins of the Movement

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pp. 11-43

During the late 1960s, Asian American political activism began spontaneously in different places, at different times, and with different perspectives. On the West Coast, it began when community activists focused attention on the wretched conditions of San Francisco's Chinatown and campus activists protested the absence of their historical experiences in college and university ...

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2. Who Am I? Creating an Asian American Identity and Culture

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pp. 44-71

Where are you really from? Often asked of Asian Americans, this question implies that they are strangers in the land, as European Americans seldom accept an American locality as an answer. The question haunted many of those who participated in the Movement, especially young middle-class Asian Americans who were twice alienated from American society. As with other ...

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3. Race versus Gender: The Asian American Women's Movement

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pp. 72-100

The Asian American women's movement has been and still is one of the most dynamic elements within the Movement. Its participants have been mainly middle-class Asian American women responding to oppression in both their ethnic and mainstream societies-as individuals, in small informal groups, or as members of large structured organizations. Though the Asian American ...

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4. Speaking Out: The Asian American Alternative Press

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pp. 101-131

From the beginning, Asian American activists were attracted to the printed word and appreciated its power to move people emotionally and politically. Those with a heightened ethnic consciousness saw newspapers, magazines, newsletters, and journals as means of reaching out to others and voicing long suppressed personal feelings. Those working in campus and community groups ...

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5. Activists and the Development of Asian American Studies

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pp. 169-202

As a result of their participation in the Third World strikes at San Francisco State College (now San Francisco State University) and the University of California at Berkeley in 1968-1969, Asian American student activists gained the right and responsibility to define an entirely new field of inquiry-Asian American Studies (AAS)-whose very existence challenged the "traditional, ...

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6. "To Serve the People" : Reformers and Community-Based Organizations

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pp. 169-202

Responding to arguments that legal desegregation was not enough to guarantee full participation in American society for minorities, in January 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a War on Poverty. He established the Office of Economic Opportunity and spent billions of dollars on antipoverty programs, creating nearly two million new jobs. The War on Poverty was ...

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7. The Emergence and Eclipse of Maoist Organizations

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pp. 203-240

Some members of the early phase of the Asian American Movement had received their political baptism in the New Left student movement.1 They constituted some of the Movement's most politically progressive elements, bringing with them pertinent parts of the New Left's ideology, goals, and tactics; but they also brought with them its problems, notably sectarianism. In the late ...

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8. From Radical to Electoral Politics: The Asian American Odyssey for Empowerment

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pp. 241-270

Asians in America have been a disenfranchised group throughout most of their history. As "aliens ineligible to citizenship," immigrants were denied the right to vote by the Naturalization Act of 1790, which stipulated that only "free white persons" could apply for naturalization, implicitly denying that privilege to people of color. After the Civil War, the laws were changed in 1870 to permit ...

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pp. 271-276

The emergence of the Asian American Movement in the late 1960s was a water shed in the history of Asians in America. It was and remains a viable means to empower Asians in America by redefining them as Asian Americans and organizing them into an inter-Asian coalition to raise their sociopolitical status and improve their lives. As a reform movement, it sought to identify inequities ...


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pp. 277-280


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pp. 281-336


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pp. 337-355

E-ISBN-13: 9781439903742

Publication Year: 2010