Asian & Black Alliance

Use these two interactive timelines to learn about historically significant Black-Asian interactions. Each event has built upon the other to create continuous possibilities for a sustainable relationship.

map of asia in the aesthetic of earthtone watercolors
618‑907
1868-1912
1899-1902
1955
1955-75
2020s‑
a dark-skinned woman carries her young son and looks intently at the camera / This is a grainy black and white photo from the 1960s
Photo: Brandt, John H. Satun Woman and Child, Satun province, Ban Doan Village, S. Thailand. From the Brandt Image Collection, Keene State College, Mason Library, Orang Asli Archive.

Black people in Asia

As early as the Tang Dynasty (618-907), Black people from Africa were brought to China as the lowest scale in the social hierarchy. The term Negrito was first applied by Spanish sailors in the 16th century after encounters with such people during early forays into the region. The term Kunlun (equivalent of Negrito) slaves appeared in early Chinese poetry. “Orang Asli, the First People” also were in various parts of Southeast Asia and the Asian Pacific Island of Papua New Guinea.

Western Racial Ideology in Asia

During Japan's Meiji era (1868-1912), scientific racism was absorbed in Japan. Its modernization process incorporated the western notion of racial hierarchy.

African American soldiers serve in Asia

African American soldiers, like David Fagen, became disillusioned with the US occupation of the Philippines, especially after hearing the use of the N-word by the White soldiers in referring to the Filipinos. Local Filipinos responded overwhelmingly.

Third-World Alliance

In 1955, a significant meeting of the postcolonial era in which 29 state-delegations from Africa and Asia convened in Bandung, Indonesia. Since then, China started its modern relationship with Africa. For example, scholarships to study in China were offered in the early 1960s. Then in the 1980s, students arrived from Africa to learn the language and complete degrees in Mandarin. Even though the 1988 riots against African students in Nanjing (and elsewhere) hindered these exchanges, the number of Africans continued to grow in China.
Delegates attending the Bandung Conference pose for a group photo, April 1955. Photo from The Wilson Center Digital Archive, China and the Asian-African Conference (Documents) (Peking, 1955).

Black Soldiers Question the Vietnam War

During the US-Vietnam war, many Black soldiers spoke up against the brutal war and its connection to racism at home in the United States.

two young Asian teenagers hold up a sign that reads 'Black Lives Matter' amidst a crowd gathered in protest
still image from video by South China Morning Post

Fostering Continuous Solidarity since #BLM

In 2020, protests to support the Black Lives Matter movement arose in multiple countries in Asia, especially around the murder of George Floyd.

map of United States in the aesthetic of earthtone watercolors
...
1868-
1890s
1909
1920-30s
1950-60s
1960-70s
1966
1967
1967-71
1968-69
1982
1986-1992
2010s

The U.S. timeline
begins at 1868  ›  ›

The 14th Amendment
and its impacts (1868-1897)

1868: Black activists fought to establish the 14th Amendment to recognize all individuals born to or naturalized in the United States to be citizens.

1869: American abolitionist Frederick Douglass denounced the Chinese Exclusion Act in his “Composite nation” Speech.

1897: The U.S. Supreme Court, based on the 14th Amendment, favored Wong Kim Ark’s case and recognized birthright citizenship (jus soli).

Mutual Influence among Leaders

Since the 1890s, freedom fighters from Asia and Black America have been learning from each other.

Mohandas Gandhi gained insights from the American abolitionists and Booker T. Washington. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was directly influenced by Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence. These mutual influences continued in aspects of philosophic, religious, and scientific practices among their followers.

Filipino American Civil Rights Activists

There are numerous examples of Filipino-African American families, such as Rufina Clementi and her husband Sgt. Francis Jenkins (a Buffalo Soldier in the US Army), who were the first Filipino American family to settle in Seattle in 1909. Cecelia Suyat Marshall was wife to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. The descendants of both families have continued to be involved in Black civil rights and public service.

Asian Journalist in the Black Press

During the 1920s-1930s, Hucheshwar Gurusidha Mudgal was reporter and acting managing editor for The Daily Negro Times and the Negro World by Pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey (in New York).

Co-Nurturing Leadership

Since the 1950s, many Asian Americans have worked with Black American civil rights activists to fight for freedom for all. Here are a few examples: Yuri Kochiyama in Berkeley/Oakland, Grace Lee Boggs in Detroit, Kiyoshi Kuromiya and Rev. Mineo Katagiri, who also established the Asian Coalition for Equality striving for a multiracial coalition in 1969.

African Americans’ Leadership & Civil Rights

The Civil Rights Movement protected equal rights of all races, including immigrants in the United States. It further paved the road of the 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act that brought in immigrants from Asia.

The number of immigrants from various Asian nations grew from 7.3 million in the 1970s to 14.1 million in 2019, a 29-fold increase since the 1960s.

Leaders Working for Peace

In 1966, Dr. King and Thích Nhất Hạnh met in Chicago. Both religious leaders dedicated their lives advocating for a society that would treat human beings as people instead of objects.

historical black and white image shows Dr. Martin Luther King seated at a table alongside Thích Nhất Hạnh.
Martin Luther King Jr. & Thích Nhất Hạnh. Credit: Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation (thichnhathanhfoundation.org)

Black Leaders Against Vietnam War

Not only African American soldiers, but also Black leaders used their platforms to speak about the unjust war in Vietnam. In 1967, Dr. Martin L. King gave his “Beyond Vietnam” speech. In 1969 African American journalist Wallace Terry II, working for TIME, interviewed almost 400 Black soldiers: more than half believed that US racism should have been their fight, not their engagements in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

Collaboration for Political Change

Japanese and African Americans joined forces to repeal The Emergency Detention Act that had lead to presidential power to establish concentration camps.

Multiracial Coalition Building

In 1968/1969, young people in their early 20s took initiatives and built multiracial coalitions in California that helped create the field of Ethnic Studies, where racial/ethnic minorities could learn about their histories and contributions to the United States.

Rev. Jesse Jackson and Anti-Asian Hate

In 1982, Chinese American Vincent Chin was brutally murdered. When the perpetrators of this hate crime went unpunished, Rev. Jesse Jackson visited Lily Chin, Vincent’s mother to show support.

Almost 40 years later, when Anti-Asian hate increased expeditiously during the COVID-19 pandemic, Rev. Jesse Jackson continued showing his support for Asian Americans.

Black-Asian Reconciliation

In 1986, the Black Korean Alliance consisted of 20 African Americans and Korean Americans convinced to build better relationships through dialogue.

In 1991 shortly after Rodney King was severely beaten, a Korean store owner, Soon Ja Du, accused Latasha Harlins —a young Black American woman— of stealing and fatally shot her. After Du’s sentencing and the police officers who beat Rodney King were acquitted in 1992, anger toward the continuous unjust treatment of Black people’s lives erupted into a violent conflict in L.A.

In 1992, the Black Korean Alliance was dissolved.

Further Deepening Solidarity

Black Lives Matter movements and Anti-Asian Hate Awareness generated more mutual support for solidarity between these two communities.

a Black man thinks pensively in the driver's seat while driving
Still image from the documentary Rising Against Asian Hate

You might also explore:

A Different Asian American Timeline

by ChangeLab
Website

“The boundaries of Asian American identity, like the boundaries of Asia itself, are always in flux, and were constructed by dynamics of power that need to be studied: imperialism, racial domination, gender oppression, labor exploitation, war, and social movements.”