University of Minnesota
African American & African Studies

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Yuichiro Onishi

Yuichiro Onishi

African-American and African Studies 808 SocSci 267 19th Ave S


I am an African Americanist trained as an historian of modern America. I write the history of the African American-led unfinished struggle for democracy in the twentieth century called the Black freedom movement that intersects with places rarely seen as centers of the African American experience, namely Japan and Okinawa. Thus, the historical narrative I present is decidedly not a single-nation focus. It foregrounds transnational connections that thinkers and activists on both sides of the Pacific enmeshed in social movements made in their efforts to construct the argument against the theory and practice of white supremacy. My first book TRANSPACIFIC ANTIRACISM (NYU Press, 2013) makes a conversation-changing intervention by arguing that in the context of forging Afro-Asian solidarity in Black America, Japan, and Okinawa in the twentieth century, race emerged as a political category of struggle with a distinct moral quality and vitality. In other words, it had nothing to do with skin color but everything to do with the politics of identification. Utilizing writings on race and democracy written in Japanese and English, I analyze the evidence of Afro-Asian solidarity found in intellectual and political activities on both sides of the Pacific. My second book project WE WHO BECOME TOGETHER: THE BLACK ETHOS IN JAPAN, 1970-76 unearths an untold story of race and resistance in Japan between 1970 and 1975. I pursue the following two lines of inquiry: (1) how one group of progressive Japanese intellectuals managed to enlist moral and political support from thousands of concerned Japanese citizens through a petition campaign in the early 1970s and buoyed the legal defense campaign for the African American civil rights leader Robert F. Williams (1925-1996) in the United States and (2) why this cause of Black freedom resonated within the Japanese public sphere. While not as well known as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, Williams was nonetheless their contemporary. His militant struggle against Jim Crow racial order, first in North Carolina and later from Cuba and China as an exiled leader, became a touchstone for activists worldwide throughout the Civil Rights and Black Power periods.


  • Black radicalism and internationalism
  • African American history
  • Transnational American studies
  • Critical race studies
  • Asian American studies

Educational Background

  • Ph.D.: History, University of Minnesota, 2004.
  • M.A.: History, University of Minnesota, 1999.
  • B.A.: History, Macalester College, 1995.


  • Onishi, Yuichiro. Transpacific Antiracism: Afro-Asian Solidarity in 20th-Century Black America, Japan, and Okinawa. NYU Press, 2013. Link
  • Onishi, Yuichiro. "The New Negro of the Pacific: How African Americans Forged Cross-Racial Solidarity with Japan [reprint with a new introduction]." Escape from New York: The New Negro Renaissance beyond Harlem (2013): Link
  • Onishi, Yuichiro. "Occupied Okinawa on the Edge: On Being Okinawan in Hawai'i and U.S. Colonialism toward Okinawa." American Quarterly 64 (December 2012): 741-766. Link
  • Onishi, Yuichiro. "The Presence of (Black) Liberation in Okinawan Freedom: Transnational Moments, 1968-1972." Extending the Diaspora: New Histories of Black People (2009): 178-202. Link
  • Onishi, Yuichiro. "Afro-Asian Solidarities and the “˜Circle of Culture’." XCP: Cross-Cultural Poetics 20 (2008): 97-101.
  • Onishi, Yuichiro. "The New Negro of the Pacific: How African Americans Forged Cross-Racial Solidarity with Japan, 1917-1922." The Journal of African American History 92:2 (2007): 191-213. Download
  • Onishi, Yuichiro. "Diaspora." XCP: Cross Cultural Poetics 15/16 (2005): 201. Link

Research Activities

  • Robert F. Williams and the Japanese, 1970-1975

Professional Activities

  • Visiting Scholar: Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan , June 2009 & 2013


  • Imagine Fund Annual Award, 2012 - 2013
  • Grant-in-Aid of Research, Artistry and Scholarship, 2011 - 2012
  • Imagine Fund Annual Award, 2010 - 2011
  • Insitute for Advanced Study Residential Fellowship, University of Minnesota, Spring 2010
  • Multicultural Teaching and Learning Fellowship, Center for Teaching and Learning, University of Minnesota, 2008 - 2009
  • President’s Faculty Multicultural Research Award, Office of Equity and Diversity, University of Minnesota, 2008 - 2009
  • Faculty Fellowship Publications Program, The Graduate Center, The City University of New York, Spring 2007
  • Mentor Recognition Award, Borough of Manhattan Community College, The City University of New York, May 2006
  • Professional Staff Congress & The City University of New York Research Award, 2005 - 2006
  • MacArthur International Predissertation Fieldwork Grant, Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change, University of Minnesota, Summer 2000

Courses Taught

  • Black Worlds in Global Perspectives: Challenges and Changes (AFRO 1012)
  • Imagining Asian America (AAS 1101)
  • Racial Formation and Transformation in the U.S. (AFRO/AMIN/AAS/CHIC 1201)
  • Contemporary Perspectives on Asian America (AAS 3001)
  • Comparative Race and Ethnicity in U.S. History (AAS/HIST 3875W)
  • Black Internationalism (AFRO 3910)
  • Ways of Knowing in Africa and the African Diaspora (AFRO 4105)
  • War and Imperialism in Asian America (AAS 4920/5920)
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