A page from the comic book, "March."  It is a vivid first-hand account of Congressman John Lewis' lifelong struggle for civil and human rights.
(Courtesy Top Shelf Productions)
August 31, 2013

Graphic Novel Depicts John Lewis' 'March' Toward Justice

John Lewis is the only person to have spoken at the 1963 March on Washington who is still alive. He was just 23 years old when he addressed the crowd of more than 200,000 at the Lincoln Memorial 50 years ago.

Lewis is a pillar of the civil rights movement. The son of sharecroppers in rural Alabama, he went on to become the president of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and then eventually, a U.S. Congressman from Georgia.

His story has been told before in documentaries and books, but now he's putting his life story into the form of a graphic novel, March. Every superhero has an origin story — and so does the graphic novel of John Lewis' life.

A bunch of staffers on the Lewis' 2008 re-election campaign were sitting around, talking about what they would do next, including staffer Andrew Aydin.

"Unashamed, I said I would be going to a comic book convention. And there was a little teasing, but Congressman Lewis stood up for me," recalls Aydin.

"And I just said, 'You shouldn't laugh. At another time in another period there was a comic book called the Montgomery story ― Martin Luther King Jr. and the Montgomery story — that inspired me ―"

Imagine a young John Lewis in 1958 — 18-years old — having arrived at college, picking up a comic book. Lewis says the comic tuned him in to the greater story:

The comic book tells the story of Rosa Parks' symbolic refusal ― but it also gives a detailed account of how to protest non-violently. It was a lesson Lewis took to heart when he staged sit-ins at segregated lunch counters in Nashville in the late '50s.

"It was on February the 13th and we had the very first sit in here. I took my seat at the counter, I asked the waitress for a hamburger and a coke," Lewis says in a 1960 NBC documentary.

Lewis' staffer, Andrew Aydin, knew the history but didn't know about the old comic book. Aydin became convinced Lewis should tell his story as a graphic novel. But Lewis wasn't so sure.

"I thought he was somewhat out of his mind? Why would I be writing a comic book?" Lewis says.

But then he thought back: "I do remember reading the Montgomery story comic book, and I said, 'Yes, if you would do it with me.' And it's been a labor of love."

That labor brought them all the way to San Diego's Comic Con — the geek and supernatural mecca known for its outlandish costumes and.

Waiting in line were three Dr. Whos, four Wolverines, and that one guy in an elaborate Transformers outfit. But they weren't waiting to see the stars from the latest sci-fi movie. Hundreds of people stood in line to have Congressman Lewis sign their copies of March.

Among the Comic Con fans was Mary Clark, a teacher at San Elijo Middle School in San Marcos, Calif.

"This will go into my library collection ― as a graphic novel, sometimes students who aren't really enthusiastic readers will pick it up thinking its about the pictures ― so to be able to give them a story along side those pictures... and something as powerful as Congressman Lewis' story..." says Clark.

That story ­spanning the Congressman's seven decades, will be told in three books. March is the first.

It begins with John Lewis as an old man waking on a dark early morning in Washington, D.C. ­It's 2009, the day of President Barack Obama's inauguration. Quickly the reader is sent back in time ― to Lewis' childhood, when he was taking care of his sharecropper parents' chickens ― practicing sermons on the young birds. The pictures are black and white, and graphic artist Nate Powell renders Lewis' life in shadow. Powell says he drew the story close to the ground, the way a child would experience the world.

I could slip into his shoes for that second and I knew precisely what it was like to witness the baptism of these chickens ― the loss of a beloved hen down a well. Hiding under the porch so that he could sneak away from his house in order to get an education each day and hop on the bus with his mom chasing after him.

The up-close perspective ― sometimes so close you only see what Lewis is seeing ― gives way to wide shots and birds' eye views as the story shifts to sit-ins and marches. Powell says there were things that were tough to draw.

"Trying to find the appropriate and powerful way to respectfully depict the murder of Emmett Till," Powell said, for instance.

Till was a 14-year-old boy brutally killed in Mississippi for allegedly whistling at a white woman. His murder received national attention and helped galvanize the civil rights movement. In the graphic novel, we see an image of Till's mangled body. Drawn from above, after Till has been dragged from the river, Powell makes thin jagged lines of ink to create a sense of human flesh that's turned into broken twigs.

Lewis says, just like the Martin Luther King comic book that inspired him, March is also a primer on non-violence. The Congressman says this is a lesson he and his co-authors, Aydin and Powell, want to keep alive.

"I remember hearing Martin Luther King Jr. preach from time to time," says Lewis. "And his father would be in the pulpit. And he would say, 'Son―make it plain―make it plain.'­ So between Nate and Andrew, they made it plain."



A spectator on the National Mall holds an image of President Obama and Martin Luther King during the 2013 presidential inauguration in January.
August 28, 2013

Speaking At The Lincoln Memorial, Obama Assesses 'The Dream'

Thousands gathered under gray skies in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington.

They gathered in the exact same spot where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech, and many of the same themes — equality, dignity, unity — echoed through the crowd.

President Obama was joined by the King family and former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

At 3 p.m. ET., they rang a bell that once hung in the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., before the church was bombed weeks after the March on Washington. Today, the bell was a symbol of what the civil rights movement accomplished and the bloody price many paid for the fight.

Obama delivered a nuanced assessment of where King's dream is today.

"To dismiss the magnitude of this progress, to suggest little has changed dishonors" the sacrifice of those who paid the price to march, Obama said. But to say that everything is OK, also dishonors that legacy.

President Clinton, like Obama, said today we are at a crossroads.

The choice from 50 years ago, said Clinton, remains the same today: "cooperate and thrive or fight with each other and fall behind."

Clinton said that Americans today owe a tremendous debt to "those people who came here 50 years ago." Millions of us, said Clinton, have lived the dream King talked about.

The question, said Clinton, is how we will repay that debt?

"Martin Luther King did not live and die to hear us complain," said Clinton. "It is time to stop complaining and put our shoulders against the stubborn gates holding the American people back."

We'll be updating this post with highlights from the event. Hit your refresh button to be sure you're seeing our latest updates.

Update at 3:34 p.m. ET. The Dream Of Every American:

In a speech that ran around 30 minutes, President Obama delivered a nuanced analysis of the progress of Martin Luther King's dream.

"To dismiss the magnitude of this progress, to suggest little has changed dishonors" the sacrifice of those who paid the price to march, Obama said. But to say that everything is OK, also dishonors that legacy.

Obama opened his speech by reminding the crowd of the history of the march. It wasn't just about ending oppression, Obama said, it was also about jobs.

He quoted MLK, saying what good is it for a man to be able to sit at a lunch counter, if he can't afford to pay the meal.

"It is along this second dimension — economic opportunity — that the dream has most fallen short," Obama said.

As Obama said, in his speech 50 years ago, King described the "the dream of every American." He described the promise that was made 200 years earlier by the country's founders: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

The pursuit of happiness, said Obama, "requires the dignity of work."

"We now have a choice. We can continue down our current path" of growing income inequality or "we can have the courage to change."

Update at 2:59 p.m. ET. 'Let Freedom Ring':

At about 3 p.m. ET, Bernice King, King's daughter, said that today, "we are going to let freedom ring."

The King family walked up to a bell saved after the Birmingham Baptist Church was bombed in 1963 and rang it. Across the country, churches joined in, ringing their bells in order to remember King.

Update at 2:41 p.m. ET. 'The Choice Remains':

The choice from 50 years ago, said President Bill Clinton, remains the same today: "cooperate and thrive or fight with each other and fall behind."

Clinton said that Americans today owe a tremendous debt to "those people who came here 50 years ago." Millions of us, said Clinton, have lived the dream King talked about.

The question, said Clinton, is how will we repay that debt?

"Martin Luther King did not live and die to hear us complain," said Clinton. "It is time to stop complaining and put our shoulders against the stubborn gates holding the American people back."

Update at 2:32 p.m. ET. Greatest Leader:

Dr. King is "the greatest leader my native state, and perhaps my native country has ever produced," former President Carter said.

He said that King's dream is still not complete. He said "we all know" how Dr. King would feel at some voter ID laws, and at the Supreme Court ruling striking a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. "We all know" what Dr. King would think about the incredible unemployment rate, and incarceration rate of blacks.

"There's a tremendous agenda before us," Carter said. "I'm thankful to Martin Luther King Jr. that his dream is still alive."

Update at 2:24 p.m. ET. Long Way To Go:

Rep. John Lewis, the Democratic congressman from Georgia, is now at the podium. Remember, Lewis was at 23, the youngest speaker at the March on Washington, 50 years ago.

"We have come a long way in 50 years, but we have a long way to go before we can fulfill King's dream," Lewis said.

He said we've made progress: "The signs that said white and black are gone... but there are still invisible signs," Lewis said. "The scars and stains of racism remain."

NYPD's Stop and Frisk program and the injustice in the case of Trayvon Martin are some examples.

"We must never, ever give up," Lewis said.

Update at 2:16 p.m. ET. Presidents Arrive:

President Obama, along with first lady Michelle Obama and his predecessors, Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter walked down the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and took their seats on stage.

As NPR's Craig Windham told our Newscast unit, it's an overcast day in Washington, but that did not stop thousands from gathering at the National Mall. Many told him, that they came to Washington, today, because they wanted to be part of history and because the struggle for civil rights is not over.

Update at 2:11 p.m. ET. Recommit To The Love:

Television mogul Oprah Winfrey reminded everyone that Martin Luther King Jr. "challenged us to see how we are more alike than we are different."

That's why as the bells toll at 3 p.m. ET., "we must recommit to the love that abides and connects each of us, and let freedom ring."

John Lewis
(Michael Reynolds/EPA /Landov)
August 28, 2013

50 Years After March On Washington, John Lewis Still Fighting

Fifty years ago Wednesday, John Lewis was the youngest speaker to address the estimated quarter-million people at the March on Washington.

"Those who have said be patient and wait — we must say that we cannot be patient," the 23-year-old chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) said that day. "We do not want our freedom gradually. But we want to be free now."

Aug. 28, 1963, also was the day Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous "I Have A Dream" speech, and few are as thoughtful about the significance of the day as Lewis, now a Democratic congressman from Georgia and civil rights icon.

That summer, the nation had seen black children attacked by dogs and fire hoses in Birmingham, Ala., and the murder of NAACP field secretary Medgar Evers.

In his 1963 speech, Lewis thundered: "Where is the political party that would make it unnecessary to march on Washington?"

Lonnie Bunch, director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, says Lewis originally planned to give a much angrier speech.

"Unlike all the other leaders there, John, coming out of the SNCC leadership, really experienced that violence," says Bunch. "He experienced that violence as a Freedom Rider. He experienced that violence at the sit-ins. He found himself saying how crucial it was not to wait for freedom, because waiting for freedom also meant that there would be years more violence."

Lewis acknowledges that he did plan a more direct speech.

"I did say in my original text, 'Listen, Mr. Kennedy. Listen, Mr. President. Listen, members of Congress. You're trying to take the revolution out of the streets and put it in the courts. You tell us to wait. You tell us to be patient. We cannot wait."

State troopers swing billy clubs to break up a civil rights voting march in Selma, Ala., on March 7, 1965. John Lewis, then-chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (in the foreground) is being beaten by state troopers.

State troopers swing billy clubs to break up a civil rights voting march in Selma, Ala., on March 7, 1965. John Lewis, then-chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (in the foreground) is being beaten by state troopers. (AP)

Some thought the first draft of Lewis' speech was scary, so organizers convinced Lewis to tone it down, Bunch says, for fear it could jeopardize the civil rights legislation President John F. Kennedy was supporting.

"There's the fear that this version would not only alienate Congress but it might alienate the potential middle America who might become supporters of this when it's seen as a moral issue," says Bunch.

Lewis is still fighting, he told a crowd Saturday during a march to commemorate the original demonstration 50 years ago.

"There are forces — there are people who want to take us back," said Lewis. "We cannot go back. We've come too far. We want to go forward."



Lewis says he never thought 50 years later that some of the same issues would be back on the table.

"I thought we had completed the fight for the right to vote, the right to participate in the democratic process. I thought we were in a process of reforming the justice system. But when I see something like what the Supreme Court did, or what happened to Trayvon Martin, it tells me over and over again that we're not there yet. We have not finished."

Lewis is referring to the verdict in the killing of unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin, and the Supreme Court's decision in June striking down a key part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Two years after the 1963 March on Washington, Lewis' skull was fractured as he marched for voting rights in Alabama on what's known as "bloody Sunday."

"I got arrested 40 times during the '60s," Lewis reminded the audience Saturday, speaking from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. "Beaten and left bloody and unconscious. But I'm not tired. I'm not weary. I'm not prepared to sit down and give up. I am ready to fight and continue to fight, and you must fight."

Looking back over 50 years, Lewis says it's "almost too much to believe" that an African-American president resides in the White House and can "come and greet the participants that gather 50 years later" at Wednesday's commemoration of the March.


Clarence B. Jones
(Norbert von der Groeben/Reuters/Landov)
August 27, 2013

Clarence B. Jones: A Guiding Hand Behind 'I Have A Dream'

For the month of August, Morning Edition and The Race Card Project are looking back at a seminal moment in civil rights history: the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his iconic "I Have a Dream Speech" Aug. 28, 1963. Approximately 250,000 people descended on the nation's capital from all over the country for the mass demonstration.

Read More

Crowds gather in front of the Washington Monument during the "March on Washington For Jobs and Freedom" in 1963.
August 24, 2013

Did The March On Washington Improve Blacks' Economic Outlook?

This week marks the 50th celebration of the March on Washington — perhaps you've heard something about it? — and it's a little hard to resist the urge to compare the America of 1963 to 2013, to see how they've diverged.

Although the "I have a dream" and the "content of their character" bits tend to get top billing in these remembrances, the event was called the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom — and it's worth noting that the word "jobs" comes before "freedom." Martin Luther King, Jr., the NAACP, and the march's organizers were calling for some very specific economic policies they thought would improve the material well-being of black folks in America.

Well, according to a report released by the Census Bureau on the eve of the march's anniversary, the median income of blacks has nearly doubled, the poverty rate has fallen by 14 percent. Twenty-six percent of blacks had high school diplomas in 1964; 85 percent did in 2012. And over that span, the number of black folks who completed four years of college jumped from 4 percent to 21 percent.

But despite those dramatic gains, the economic picture over the last 50 years for blacks has been a mixed bag: incontrovertible, substantial progress — a lot of it due in part to policies the march helped enshrine — while some troubling disparities remain stubbornly in place.

Here's some of what the original marchers called for, and here's what happened since then.

A $2 Per Hour Minimum Wage Nationwide

One of the tent poles of the March on Washington was an increase in the federal minimum wage, which was $1.25 in September 1963. That would be equal to about $9.25 in 2013 dollars, two dollars higher than the current federal minimum wage. The march organizers wanted a wage floor of $2 an hour. But two dollars in 1963 would have been more than $14.80 in 2013 — more than double the current federal minimum wage, which hasn't been raised since 2009. It's pretty safe to say that that goal has gone unrealized.

(In case you were wondering, the state of Washington's minimum wage is the highest in the country — $9.19 — and it comes the closest to holding constant with the actual 1963 goal of the march's organizers.)

A Federal Law Prohibiting Discrimination In Public Or Private Hiring

Another major aim for the march was a law that barred discrimination in public and private hiring. Two years later, in 1965, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was up and running, and was granted the power to sue employers who discriminated against applicants or employees. That's a definite win for the marchers there.

"In the 1960s, there were a number of occupations that blacks just couldn't get — you were categorically blocked," said Algernon Austin, an analyst at the Economic Policy Institute. "Now you can see blacks in almost every occupation — including in the White House."

But fighting discrimination is like trying to inoculate against a mutating disease: The socially and legally sanctioned discrimination of the 1960s gave way to stealthier-but-still-dangerous forms of bias.

"It's still the case that while there's little categorical exclusion, we still see evidence that employers prefer white workers," Austin said. He pointed to much-cited research that found that people with "black-sounding" names were less likely to be hired for jobs than people without them, even when their qualifications were about the same, and that a white man with a criminal record applying for a job was more likely to receive a response from an employer than a black man without one.

The march's organizers also hoped to put a dent in the double-digit unemployment rate among blacks (10 percent). That figure hasn't improved in the 50 years since; indeed, the black unemployment rate over the last half-century — 11.6 percent — suggests that black America is operating in a permanent economic recession. And since 1963, the average rate of black unemployment has hovered at more than twice the unemployment for whites.

(During the recent recession, black unemployment crept up to nearly 15 percent.)

Those dismal numbers might still understate just how bad the employment situation is. "To be counted as unemployed, you have to be actively looking for work," Austin said. " In communities where it's very difficult for people to find work, people drop out of the labor work because their chances are so small." In other words, there are untold numbers of unemployed black folks we've just ceased to count.

This is one of the big reasons why the median household income for African Americans remains so far from parity with whites, despite some progress. "When you're unemployed, you're only losing wealth or you're going into debt," Austin said.

It's really hard to separate out the racial disparities in household wealth from America's housing policy. Blacks were cut off from the avenues to home ownership that helped create the white middle class in the middle of the century — they were barred from many colleges and buying homes in new suburbs that whites could take advantage of with the G.I. Bill — and so it's been a game of catch-up ever since.

Household wealth for blacks was on an upward trend for a stretch in the 1980s and 1990s, thanks to growing numbers of black homeowners.

And then the housing bubble burst.

Places like Prince George's County, the wealthiest majority-black county in the country, were rocked by the housing crisis. Thousands of black people lost their homes to foreclosure.

Black people with excellent credit were steered toward subprime loans, according to the Center for Responsible Lending. "There's also evidence to suggest that housing segregation played a role," Austin said. "The more segregated a community, the more [likely there was] to be subprime lending in the community."

In 2011, after the havoc wrought by the crisis, the percentage of black people who owned homes was essentially unchanged from 1970, the earliest year the data was available. And three decades of black economic progress essentially vanished in smoke.

Which brings us to another major peg of the march.

Immediate Elimination Of School Segregation

Though the Supreme Court barred segregation in schools since Brown v. Board of Education, it was still the norm in practice eight years later when the March on Washington rolled around. Fifty years on, after white flight and busing, American schools remain deeply segregated.

"Laws that sentenced blacks to third-class educations — those were the easy targets," Andrew Rotherham, a co-founder of the education think tank Bellwether Education Partners, told the Atlantic last year. He said that American American schools are as segregated as they were in the late 1960s. "What's driving segregation now is housing patterns, and that's much more difficult to solve. It's also not necessarily a problem you can solve with education."

According to a report from the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, three-quarters of all black students attend schools that are majority nonwhite, and more than a third attend schools where white students make up 10 percent or less of the school population.

Maybe surprisingly, the South had become the most desegregated region in the country. But the UCLA researchers said the South was becoming resegregated more quickly than anywhere else in the nation.

The educational outcomes of black children and white children remain glaring. Whites are nearly twice as likely to graduate from college than blacks, and that disparity informs, perpetuates, explains many of those messy, aforementioned issues like unemployment, earning potential, and housing choices.

The whole exercise of checking the march's platform can seem obvious and ham-handed, and many folks would argue that this weekend should be about celebrating the hard-earned freedoms catalyzed by the march and its moment. But its planners called it the March on Washington For Jobs and Freedom for a reason.

Edith Lee-Payne
(Rowland Scherman)
August 21, 2013

At 1963 March, A Face In The Crowd Became A Poster Child

For the month of August, Morning Edition and The Race Card Project are looking back at a seminal moment in civil rights history: the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his iconic "I Have A Dream Speech" on Aug. 28, 1963. Approximately 250,000 people descended on the nation's capital from all over the country for the mass demonstration.

Read More

Yuri Kochiyama
(Courtesy of the Kochiyama family/UCLA Asian American Studies Center)
August 19, 2013

The Japanese-American Internee Who Met Malcolm X

The brief friendship of Malcolm X and Yuri Kochiyama began close to 50 years ago with a handshake.

Diane Fujino, chairwoman of the Asian-American studies department at the University of California, Santa Barbara, details the moment in her biography Heartbeat of Struggle: The Revolutionary Life of Yuri Kochiyama.

Kochiyama and her eldest son, 16-year-old Billy, were arrested along with hundreds of other people, mainly African-Americans, during a protest in Brooklyn, N.Y., in October 1963.

"[They were] in this packed courthouse," Fujino says. "[There were] a lot of activists who [were] waiting their hearing on the civil disobedience charges."

In walks Malcolm X, who was quickly mobbed by adoring activists.

Kochiyama described the scene in a Democracy Now! interview in 2008. "I felt so bad that I wasn't black, that this should be just a black thing," she recalled. "But the more I see them all so happily shaking his hands and Malcolm so happy, I said, 'Gosh, darn it! I'm going to try to meet him somehow.' "

Eventually, Kochiyama called out to Malcolm X, "Can I shake your hand?"

"What for?" he demanded.

"To congratulate you for giving direction to your people," she finally mustered.

Malcolm X smiled and extended his hand. Kochiyama remembered how she could hardly believe she was meeting the most prominent black nationalist leader of the time.

'A Nail That Sticks Out'

Kochiyama's friendship with Malcolm X fascinated playwright Tim Toyama, who wrote a one-act play called Yuri and Malcolm X.

"Malcolm X's movement was probably the last thing you would imagine a Japanese-American person, especially a woman, to be involved with," he says.

Toyama's father and Kochiyama are cousins and nisei, children of Japanese immigrants. They were part of a generation that was rounded up by the American government and forced to live behind barbed wire during World War II.

"There's a Japanese saying that a nail that sticks out gets hammered down," Toyama explains. "I think most Japanese Americans, especially nisei, did not want to stick out, especially after the war."

Kochiyama couldn't help but stick out. She lived in New York City housing projects among black and Puerto Rican neighbors. Kochiyama began participating in sit-ins and inviting Freedom Riders to speak at weekly open houses in the family's apartment.

From Activist To Radical

Audee Kochiyama-Holman, Yuri's eldest daughter, remembers feeling shy around the constant flow of visitors in their home, where her mother taped newspaper clippings to the walls and dinner plates often shared space on the kitchen table with piles of leaflets.

"Our house felt like it was the movement 24/7," Kochiyama-Holman recalls.

In the summer of 1963, a Kochiyama family vacation included a visit to Birmingham, Ala., to see charred houses and storefronts left behind by racial protests. The Kochiyamas also visited the 16th Street Baptist Church weeks before a bombing there killed four black girls.

"It was one of the first news stories in the civil rights movement that our mother sat us down to talk about," Kochiyama-Holman says.

The growing momentum of the civil rights movement and meeting Malcolm X in 1963 radicalized Kochiyama, who became more interested in black nationalism. FBI files later described her as a "ring leader" of black nationalists and a "Red Chinese agent."

The Final Meeting

Kochiyama and Malcolm X stayed in touch through postcards and even a visit to the Kochiyamas' apartment. Their last meeting was on Feb. 21, 1965 — just 16 months after their first handshake — in New York City's Audubon Ballroom.

That Sunday afternoon, gunmen killed Malcolm X moments after he approached the podium to address a weekly meeting of the Organization of Afro-American Unity, which Malcolm X founded after he was expelled from the Nation of Islam.

Most of the audience in the ballroom fell to the ground after the gunfire, crawling away for safety. But Kochiyama headed toward the injured Malcolm X, who was lying on the floor.

"I just picked up his head and just put it on my lap," Kochiyama said in the Democracy Now! interview. "I said, 'Please, Malcolm! Please, Malcolm! Stay alive!' "

The moment was captured in a photo in Life magazine in 1965. She's the unidentified Asian woman peering worriedly through horn-rimmed glasses at a soon-to-be lifeless Malcolm X. His blood-soaked shirt is open, exposing his bullet-riddled body.

Illness and age have slowed down Kochiyama, now 92, drastically over the past couple of years, her eldest daughter says.

But for decades after her brief friendship with Malcolm X, Kochiyama remained committed to causes in the black, Latino and Asian-American communities.

In 1988, she and other Japanese-American internees, including her late husband Bill, celebrated the signing of the Civil Liberties Act. It was a formal government apology that provided reparations to World War II internees — and a milestone Kochiyama helped to achieve 25 years ago this month.


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