Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: James Hirabayashi Interview
Narrator: James Hirabayashi
Interviewer: Megan Asaka
Location: Denver, Colorado
Date: July 4, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-hjim-02-0006

<Begin Segment 6>

MA: And then you were sent back to San Francisco?

JH: Then I got back to San Francisco just in time for the fall semester. And then the fall semester year before the strike.

MA: So that was 196-...

JH: '67 or so. Yeah, something like 1967 I got back. And as I say, everything was gearing up there, and the civil rights movement and everything like that. Then the Asian American Political Alliance, I think it was first formed by Yuji Ichioka at Berkeley. And I think some of the students at State talked to him, and they started a chapter there at San Francisco State. And since it was a student organization, it needed a faculty advisor. And when I showed up, they glommed onto me and I didn't know what was going on, so I said, "Okay." And then their, the Asian American Political Alliance became part of the coalition, the Third World Liberation Front.

MA: So the Asian American Political Alliance, was it Japanese American, Chinese American? What was the ethnic makeup?

JH: Yeah, well, it was mainly Japanese American, but there were Chinese Americans in there. The Chinese students had a separate organization, a Chinese students organization, which was much more, all Chinese. So I don't know why the Japanese students didn't have a Japanese students organization or something like that, they just, I guess the radical Sansei got together, and then they talked to Yuji. So there were Chinese, a few Chinese and maybe other people in that initial, Korean, maybe, I don't know.

MA: And can you talk a little bit about San Francisco State University at that time and what the student body was like, especially in comparison with Berkeley? Because those two are oftentimes mentioned together, but they were quite different.

JH: Yeah, well, of course, I didn't know what was going on at Berkeley very much. There was this free speech movement. As I say, just during this period, I was in Africa, so that I was sort of trying to catch up. And the other thing that affected me at State in regards to these things is that my officemate started a labor union, the AFL, I guess, American Federation of Labor. You know, we had this university professor, professor's organization, which is more of a professor's organization, which is more of a professional organization, it wasn't a labor union. And my (officemate) and some of his colleagues thought that we needed really a more vigorous labor oriented. And so they started the union, and they were often meeting in my office. And, you know, in those days, I just wanted to keep my nose clean, get my tenure, you know, get some security, inasmuch as Japanese weren't getting jobs like that. They would get the degrees at the universities and end up, as they say, working on their farms, parents' farms and vegetable stands and that sort of thing, you know.

MA: Right, so the stakes were maybe a little different for you than for your white colleagues.

JH: Yeah. So I was, and then, you know, trying to learn how to teach and all that. And unfortunately, the educational system is such that you get trained as an academician in your field to do research and that kind of thing, but you're not trained how to teach, really, you're not in education. So that, gosh, when I started to teach, I had to sort of learn on the spot what education was. So if I were to do it over again, I would have taken some education classes, learned something about the profession of teaching as well. Anyway, that's what I was doing. But when my officemate was involved with starting the union, it was easier for me to join rather than to argue why I should stay out. [Laughs] But with this atmosphere, I just became a charter member of the, a union.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.