Yuri Kochiyama, Civil Rights Activist Who Won Reparations For Japanese Americans
Yuri Kochiyama spent her early childhood in an American internment camp with her parents and thousands of other Japanese Americans. It was there that she met her husband. When the couple moved to New York City following World War II, they lived in largely black and Puerto Rican housing projects, hosted activist meetings in their apartment, and became close friends with — among others — the famous black nationalist Malcolm X.
Throughout the 1980s, Kochiyama was at the forefront of the fight for reparations and a formal government apology for Japanese-American internees. Her advocacy of the Civil Liberties Act was successful, and in 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed the act into law. Though she has been criticized as well as praised for her (at times contradictory) political beliefs, there is no denying the impact her advocacy had on the fabric of Asian-American history and America's complicated civil rights past. She died in 2014, and Google commemorated her contributions this past year with a doodle marking what would have been her 95th birthday.