Histories of civil rights movements in America generally place little or emphasis on the activism of Asian Americans. Yet, as this fascinating new study reveals, there is a long and distinctive legacy of civil rights activism among foreign and American-born Chinese, Japanese, and Filipi students, who formed crucial alliances based on their shared religious affiliations and experiences of discrimination. Stephanie Hinnershitz tells the story of the Asian American campus organizations that flourished on the West Coast from the 1900s through the 1960s. Using their faith to point out the hypocrisy of fellow American Protestants who supported segregation and discriminatory practices, the student activists in these groups also performed vital outreach to communities outside the university, from Californian farms to Alaskan canneries. Highlighting the unique multiethnic composition of these groups, Race, Religion, and Civil Rights explores how the students' interethnic activism weathered a variety of challenges, from the outbreak of war between Japan and China to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Drawing from a variety of archival sources to bring forth the authentic, passionate voices of the students, Race, Religion, and Civil Rights is a testament to the powerful ways they served to shape the social, political, and cultural direction of civil rights movements throughout the West Coast.
Stephanie Hinnershitz is an assistant professor of history at Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Georgia, USA.