The Asian
American Movement


"Its founding principle of coalition politics emphasizes solidarity among Asians of all ethnicities"

Introduction 1960-1980

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 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).



< 1960

The majority of U.S.
society viewed Asian
Americans as
“perpetual foreigners”

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.

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”.

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. 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.


Key Figures

Grace Lee Boggs was an American author, social activist, philosopher and feminist. She is known for her years of political collaboration with C. L. R. James and Raya Dunayevskaya in the 1940s and 1950s. In the 1960s she and James Boggs, her husband of some forty years (he died in 1993), took their own political direction. By 1998, she had written four books, including an autobiography. In 2011, still active at the age of 95, she wrote a fifth book, The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century, with Scott Kurashige and published by the University of California Press.


Key Organizations

“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”

Yuji Ichioka and Emma Gee founded the 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. 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.