Phil Hayasaka was born and raised in Seattle, growing up in a Japanese American community on the north end of Beacon Hill. He was incarcerated in an interment camp during World War II, moved to Philadelphia toward the end of the war, but soon returned to Seattle to help restart his father’s business and attend college at the University of Washington.
Following his military service during the Korean War, Hayasaka served as President of the Jackson Street Community Council, a multi-racial service and civil rights advocacy organization that included parts of Seattle’s African American neighborhood, the Central District, and its Asian American neighborhood, Chinatown/ International District. He also served as President of the Seattle Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens’ League (JACL).
Hayasaka was the first Director of Seattle’s Human Rights Commission—a body created by the City Council to investigate housing discrimination in Seattle. Under Hayasaka’s leadership, the Commission drafted and eventually convinced the City Council to pass open housing legislation. The law, which prohibited racial discrimination in the renting or selling of residential property, was
tragically rescinded by Seattle voters in a 1964 ballot initiative.
Hayasaka continued to serve as the Commission’s Director until 1968,
after which he became Director of a new Human Rights Department with the power to enforce the city’s civil rights laws. Hayasaka also co-founded Seattle’s Asian Coalition for Equality (ACE) and in 1971 helped create an Asian American Advisory Council for Governor Dan Evans. After leaving the Human Rights Department, Hayasaka worked for the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services as the Director of its Office of Equal Opportunity.
Phil Hayasaka shared his memories in an interview conducted by
Trevor Griffey and Morgan Banks on December 6, 2005. To the right
are streaming-video excerpts of the interview. Video editing by Daren Salter.
Here is a transcript of most of the interview courtesy of Karen Ishizuka who uses the interview in her book, Making Asian America. Mellisa Jamero transcribed the interview.
Work on this interview was made possible by a grant from
4Culture/King County Lodging Tax.