If you’ve ever taken an ethnic studies course, you have Ronald Takaki to thank for it. He pioneered the way for ethnic studies in the 1970s and established the nation’s first doctoral program in ethnic studies at UC Berkeley.
If you have any interest whatsoever in ethnic studies, his books are must-reads.
“Ron Takaki elevated and popularized the study of America’s multiracial past and present like no other scholar, and in doing so had an indelible impact on a generation of students and researchers across the nation and world,” Don T. Nakanishi, director of UCLA’s Asian American Studies Center, said Thursday.
His focus on the pluralism of America began in the ethnic stew of Hawaii, where he grew up. Born in Honolulu on April 12, 1939, he was the grandson of a Japanese immigrant who went to Hawaii in 1886 to work in the sugar cane fields. After his father died when Takaki was 7, he was raised by his mother and Chinese stepfather, who ran a Chinese restaurant in Honolulu. […]
His years at Wooster, where he was one of two Asian Americans on campus, gave him a new awareness of himself as an ethnic American. One of his professors “asked me how long I’d been in this country, where did I learn to speak English. I told him I was from Hawaii and he says, ‘But how long have you been in this country?’ I guess I didn’t look American.” […]
He graduated from Wooster in 1961 with a bachelor’s in history. At UC Berkeley he received a master’s in 1962 and a doctorate in 1967 with a dissertation on the history of American slavery.
His doctoral work caught the attention of UCLA. Takaki was hired and in 1967 taught the university’s first African American history class.
Takaki committed suicide this week after a 20 year battle with multiple sclerosis. 😦