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Home / immigrant

Losing generation of activists who fought racism proves need for Asian American studies

By Claire Wang

The photographer Corky Lee, who died in late January at age 73, captured images of some of the most pivotal moments in Asian American history. The journalist David Ibata, who died two days before at 66, helped dozens of young, cash-strapped Asian reporters land coveted internships in Chicago newsrooms.

And the scholar Judy Yung, who died in December at 74, chronicled the experiences of Chinese women in 19th century San Francisco and launched one of the country’s first Asian American studies programs. Yung, Lee and Ibata belonged to a generation of activists who cemented the Asian American movement in the late 1960s and, over the next half-century, ushered in an unprecedented level of representation in politics, scholarship and culture.

In the past decade, many leaders of that seminal era — from the civil rights icon Yuri Kochiyama to the actor Rodney Kageyama — have died. The coronavirus pandemic is amplifying a trend that experts say has been accelerating in recent years: the loss of the last living links to the Asian American movement. At a moment when Asian elders face threats on multiple fronts, they say, it’s even more important that their stories are taught in schools and other […]

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