At Circuit Media, we strive to spotlight innovative and diverse communicators. In recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, we honor Minoru Yasui.
Yasui was an American lawyer and civil rights activist known for his activism during World War II. He’s particularly known for challenging the discriminatory policies placed on Japanese Americans. Yasui’s life and work demonstrate the power of communication to effect change through activism.
Yasui was born in 1916 in Oregon to immigrant parents from Japan. He grew up in a community of Japanese Americans, who faced discrimination from the outside world. Yasui went on to study law at the University of Oregon. In 1939, he became the first Japanese American to graduate from the university. But he faced discrimination and prejudice for being the child of Japanese immigrants and struggled to find work as a lawyer.
In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which authorized the forced relocation and internment of Japanese Americans on the West Coast. Soon after, there were travel restrictions and curfews targeting Japanese immigrants and those with Japanese heritage.
Yasui, who was living in Portland, Oregon, at the time, challenged the constitutionality of the curfew placed on Japanese Americans in the area. He intentionally violated the curfew and turned himself in to the authorities, hoping to bring attention to the injustice of the policy.
Yasui was arrested and convicted of violating the curfew. He went to jail before being sent to an internment camp in Idaho. Despite the injustice he faced, Yasui never gave up his fight for civil rights for the AAPI community. His determination to advocate for civil rights led him to appear before the U.S. Supreme Court in Yasui v. United States in 1943. After the war, he continued to work for the Japanese American community and became a vocal advocate for civil rights more broadly.
Throughout his life, Yasui recognized the importance of communication in effecting change for not only his own community but to better the lives of all people. He used his legal and oratory skills to advocate for the rights of marginalized communities and challenge discriminatory policies. His life and work serve as an inspiration to those who continue to fight for justice and equality today.
You can read more about the life and work of Yasui at Law Week Colorado.