Activist Oral Histories
Veterans of Seattle's civil rights campaigns tell
their stories in streaming video oral histories
(follow the links to see brief biographies
and watch video excerpts from the oral histories of these activists)
Born in Wapato, Washington, Pedro Acevez was part of the first contingent of Chicano students to enroll at the University of Washington. He served as President of MEChA de UW and helped organize farm workers in the Yakima Valley as part of a United Farm Workers campaign in the early 1970s.
|Adams, Jean "Maid"
Maid Adams was active in Seattle's CORE chapter in the early 1960s. She helped organize campaigns against employment discrimination in grocery stories and downtown department stores, against housing discrimination, and against police harassment of African Americans.
Bishop Adams was pastor of First AME Church from 1962-1968 and
helped shape Seattle's civil rights struggles of the mid 1960s. He was
the first Chair of the Central Area Civil Rights Committee and
co-founded the Central Area Motivation Program (CAMP).
An artist and one of the first Chicano muralists in Washington State, Aguayo attended UW in the late 1960s and was active in both the Chicano and farm workers movements. His murals, including several at the University, remain key symbols of the Chicano movement that transformed the state and the university.
The daughter of farm workers, Yolanda Alaniz was active in MEChA, the Brown Berets, the Freedom Socialist Party and Radical Women, in addition to writing for the UW Daily on Chicana issues. She now works as an archivist, preserving Chicano/a history.
Belle Alexander was a "Rosie the Riveter" and one of the first African Americans to work at Boeing Aircraft. Raised in Georgia, she moved to Seattle in 1943. A sheet metal worker, she worked at Boeing for three years, then spent three decades working in Seattle area hospitals.
A child during the civil rights era, Kenyatto Amen-Allah grew up around
the Black Panther Party, attending the BPP's Liberation School. He is
currently active with the Panther Legacy Committee.
Theresa Aragon came to Seattle in 1968 to complete her PhD at UW. She soon became involved in efforts to create a Chicano Studies program, serving as interim director of that program in 1971. Off campus she served on Governor's Advisory Committee on Mexican American Affairs.
A Puyallup, Ramona Bennett has been pioneering activist on behalf of Indian rights since joining the American Indian Women's Service league in the 1950s. In 1964 she co-founded the Survival of American Indians Association. In 1971, she was elected Puyallup Tribal Chairwoman, becoming one of the first women to lead a tribe. She was one of the principal authors of the Indian Child Welfare Act passed by Congress in 1978.
A member of the Muckleshoot tribe,
Willard Bill has spent forty years providing educational services to
Native peoples and non Indians in Washington state. He taught at the
University of Washington and helped develop the Office of Minority
Affairs. He worked for the State Department of Education and the Seattle
Community College District. He is currently Muckleshoot tribal
Born in Mexico, raised in Texas, Juan
Bocanegra moved to Seattle in 1971 to earn a graduate degree at UW. He
quickly became active in the Chicano movement on campus and in the
community, including the establishment of El Centro de la Raza. He also
participated in the American Indian Movement struggles.
Bullitt, Katherine "Kay"
Education reformer, civil rights and peace activist, citizen diplomat, historic preservationist, philanthropist, Kay Bullitt was a tireless advocate for the desegregation of Seattle public schools. In the early 1960s she started a successful voluntary racial transfer program between Lowell and Madrona elementary schools and coordinated volunteer instructional programs to preserve racial diversity.
Vivian Caver’s more
than 50 year record of civic service in Seattle’s African American
community includes substantial civil rights advocacy work:
Urban League desegregation campaigns of the 1940s, open housing
campaigns of the 1960s, and serving as Vice Chair and later Chair of
the Seattle Human Rights Department.
Born in Seattle's Chinatown, Ron Chew
attended the University of Washington in the early 1970s, establishing there
his interest in journalism. As writer and editor he helped turn the
International Examiner into the respected voice of the International
District. Since 1991 he has served as Executive Director of the Wing Luke
A leader in the fight to preserve Chinatown/International
District in the early 1970s, Doug Chin is a prominent journalist and author
of important books on the history of Chinese Americans in Seattle
and the history of the International District.
Raised in Seattle, Mike Cook joined the Black Panther Party in the late
1960s and co-founded its chapter in Walla Walla state penitentiary.
Fred and Dorothy
Active in Seattle's Filipino American community for more than fifty years,
the Cordovas created the Filipino Youth Association in the 1960s, the
Demonstration Project for Asian Americans in the 1970s, and the
Filipino American National Historical Society in the 1980s.
In 1974, Megan Cornish joined the Electrical Workers Trainee program at Seattle City Light, subsequently becoming one of the first female utility electrical workers anywhere in the United States. A member of Radical Women and the Freedom Socialist Party, she has been active for more than 30 years in struggles for race, gender, and economic justice.
David Della grew up in Seattle and became
active in the Alaska Cannery Workers Association (ACWA) in the 1970s. He assumed leadership positions in ILWU Local 37 in the 1980s. A former
director of the State Commission on Asian and Pacific American Affairs,
he was elected to the Seattle City Council in 2003.
Chicano artist Daniel DeSiga was born in Walla Walla, Washington and participated in the University of Washington’s Chicano Movement during the early 1970s. His artwork evokes the tenets of el movimiento and expands Chicano/a art to include the life of migratory ethnic Mexican farm workers.
Co-founder of the Seattle chapter of the Black Panther
Party, Aaron Dixon helped start the Black Student Union at the
University of Washington before
meeting Bobby Seale and agreeing to lead the first chapter of the BPP
established outside of California. He served as Captain from 1968 to
Co-founder of the Seattle chapter of the Black Panther
Party, Elmer Dixon grew up in the Central District and helped organize a
Black Student Union at Garfield HS before helping his brother Aaron
begin the BPP. He served as Field Marshall and coordinator of the
breakfast program for the chapter.
Youngest of the Dixon brothers,
Michael was a 15-year-old sophomore at Garfield High School when he
joined the BP. Active also in the BSU at Garfield, he then
attended UW and helped cement the relationship between the Panthers and
Sister of assassinated union leader Silme
Domingo, Cindy Domingo was active in the Union of Democratic Filipinos (KDP)
in the 1970s. In the 1980s, she headed the Committee for Justice for
Domingo and Viernes, waging a successful nine year long campaign that
proved that the Marcos regime was complicit in the murders.
The youngest of the Domingo siblings, Lynn joined the KDP
while in high school in the 1970s, organized Asian American students at
UW, joined ILWU local 37 and organized Alaska cannery workers. She
remains an active member of LELO.
In 1974, Heidi Durham joined the Electrical Workers Trainee program at Seattle City Light, subsequently becoming one of the first female line workers anywhere in the United States. A member of Radical Women and the Freedom Socialist Party, she has been active for more than 30 years in struggles for race, gender, and economic justice.
Jake Fiddler served as Elmer Dixon's bodyguard and the Coordinator of Party newspaper sales and distribution for the Seattle Chapter of the Black Panther Party from 1968-70.
| Gallegos, Sidney
Sydney Gallegos was born into a farming family in northern New Mexico. In 1969, Gallegos came to Seattle to attend UW. One of the founders of MEChA, he was also active in El Teatro del Pioja, a guerrilla theater group. After earning his degree in dentristy, Dr. Gallegos helped found the Seattle chapter of the National Chicano Health Organization.
As a student at the University of
Washington in the late 1960s and early 1970s Erasmo Gamboa was a
founding member of MEChA, organized the grape boycott in support of farm
workers, and was instrumental in establishing the Chicano Studies
Program. He later earned his Ph.D and now teaches American Ethnic
Studies and U.S. History at UW.
Guadalupe Gamboa is one of the founders of the United Farm
Workers of Washington state. He grew up in the Yakima Valley and has
been active in farm worker organizing since the 1960s. A graduate of UW
law school, he was also one of the founders of MEChA at UW.
Rosalinda Guillen helped lead the United
Farm Workers campaign that resulted in a contract with Chateau Ste.
Michelle winery in 1995. A native of Skagit County, she worked in
the fields when she was young, then built a successful career as a bank
officer. She gave that up to devote herself to farm worker organizing.
grew up in Seattle's Central District and attended the University of
Washington where he co-founded the Black Student Union and helped lead
off-campus protests in the late 1960s. After serving as Executive Director at CAMP, he was elected to the King County Council, where he now represents the 2nd District.
Born in Wapato, Washington in the 1950s, like many Filipino Americans, Rich Gurtiza went to work in the Alaska canneries. In the 1970s and 1980s he was active in the Alaska Cannery Workers Association and the campaign to reform Local 37, the union of cannery workers. Today he is President of Region 37, Inlandboatman’s Union/ILWU,
Born in Seattle, Phil Hayasaka spent WWII in an internment camp. In the 1950s and 1960s he served as President of the Seattle Japanese American Citizens League, President of the Jackson Street Community Council, and became the first Director of the Seattle Human Rights Commission, where he worked to create and enforce civil rights legislation.
Todd Hawkins is a
plumber who took a leading role in the United Construction Workers
Association’s struggle to desegregate the Seattle building trades unions
and organize anti-discrimination organizing in Oakland, Denver, and the
Southwest. He is a longtime leader at LELO.
A social worker,
Dorothy Hollingsworth moved to Seattle in 1946 and became active in the
Christian Friends for Racial Equality and later the Central Area Civil
Rights Committee and Model Cities. She served as first director of Head
Start in Seattle, and was the first black woman elected to the Seattle
After joining the Black Panther Party
in 1969, Leon Hobbs used his military experience to train Seattle Chapter
members in weapons and tactics. He later served as bodyguard to Huey P.
Hubbard’s civil rights leadership
grew out of his involvement with the Catholic Church. Hubbard co-founded
Seattle’s Catholic Interracial Council and the Catholic Church’s Project
Equality, and served in the leadership of Seattle's Central Area Civil Rights
Committee and the National Office of Black
Born in the Philippines, Francisco Irigon grew up in
Tacoma/Seattle and attended Seattle Central and UW where he was active in
the Asian Student Coalition in the early 1970s. Helping to lead the
demonstrations that preserved the International District, he was co-founder
of the Seattle monthly, Asian Family Affair.
Charles Johnson has a long record of leadership in the NAACP: he was
President of the NAACP's Seattle Chapter from 1959 to 1964, of
its Northwest Area Conference until the early 1970s, and
served on the National NAACP's Executive Board from 1968 to 1995.
He played a leading role in the Central Area Civil Rights Committee and
Model Cities. From 1969 to 1998 he served as a Judge, first in Municipal
Court, then in Superior Court.
An electrician, Doug Johnson joined IBEW Local 46 in 1986. When the Electrical Workers Minority Caucus was formed, he became one of the group's few white male members.
Shortly after moving to Seattle from
Los Angeles in 1969, Ron Johnson joined the Black Panther Party and
served as the local Chapter's Minister of Information through much of the 1970s.
Born in Seattle, Chuck Kato spent WW2 in the Minadoka internment camp. He later attended UW and earned an engineering degree. In the 1970s, Kato became one of the leaders of the movement for "Redress," the campaign to secure compensation for Japanese American families who lost freedom and property during the War.
Gutierrez Kenney, Phyllis
Representative Phyllis Gutierrez Kenney was one of the first Latinas to hold an elected state office. She served in the legislature from 1997 to 2103. She’s been an advocate for farmworkers and instrumental in passing legislation to assist both Latino and undocumented students to pursue a higher education and training programs for English language learners.
Born in Wenatchee, Ivan King grew up in Seattle. As a student at the UW in the 1950s he became a Christian socialist, a pacifist, and civil rights activist. An early member of CORE, from 1964-67 he served as Assistant Director of the Urban League, later working for the Central Area Motivational Program and other activist projects.
Herman Lanier was a
sheet metal worker in
the early 1970s and an active member in the United Construction
In 1974, Janet Lewis became one of the first females admitted to the IBEW Local 46 apprenticeship program. Over the years she has worked to increase women's access to jobs in the construction trades, has earned a law degree, served as Chief Electrical inspector for the state, and currently is Business Representative for Local 46.
Born on the
Colville Reservation, Randy Lewis attended Western Washington College in
the 1960s where he helped found the American Indian Student Union. After
participating in the Alcatraz occupation in 1969, he joined Bernie
Whitebear in organizing the Ft. Lawton takeover in 1970s. He is a
longtime member of the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation.
| Lowry, Mike
Mike Lowry was born in St. John, Washington in 1939. Elected to Congress in 1978, he served until 1989. In 1992 he became Governor of the state of Washington, serving until 1996. This interview focuses on Lowry's work to pass a federal law providing redress and compensation to Japanese Americans who had been interned during World War II. Congressman Lowry sponsored the 1988 compensation Act.
Raised in Portland and
Seattle, Sharon Maeda attended UW in the 1960s and became involved in civil
rights activities. A teacher and journalist, she has served on the Board of
JACL, was a founding member of Seattle Third World Women, and Executive
Director of Pacific Radio.
Co-founder of El Centro de la Raza, Roberto Maestas first became
involved in Chicano/ Latino activism in the late 1960s as a teacher at
Franklin High School. He helped organize farm workers in the Yakima valley
and students at UW and South Seattle Community College before becoming El Centro's Executive Director.
Baba Jeanne Mangaoang grew up in the Seattle area and joined the Communist Party while in graduate school in 1938. She worked with the Washington Commonwealth Federation in the late 1930's and 1940's. In the early 50's she went underground. She also served as Communist Party chair and was a gubernatorial candidate in 1988.
Martinez, Frank and Blanca
Frank Martinez and Blanca Estella met at the UW during the 1970s. Active in MEChA and the farm workers movement, they were also principle actors and organizers of Teatro del Piojo, the activist Chicano theater troup that performed throughout the Pacific Northwest during the 1970s.
Judge Martinez grew up in
Lynden, WA when his family moved there from Texas. Attending UW in the early
1970s, he was active in MEChA. After earning a law degree, he became a King
County deputy prosecutor, a Superior Court judge, and since 2004, a U.S.
District Court Judge.
in Minidoka Internment Camp, Larry Matsuda grew up in Seattle's
International District and attended the UW. An activist in the Asian
American student movement of the late 1960s, an educator who taught one of
the first courses in Asian American history in Washington State, he has also been active in the
Samuel McKinney came to Seattle in 1958 and led Mt. Zion Baptist Church
for 40 years. He played a key role in the civil rights mobilizations of
the 1960s. In 1961 he arranged the one and only Seattle visit for his
former college classmate, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Since returning to Seattle after serving in WWII, Lyle Mercer has been an activist for peace and progressive politics. Over the decades he led opposition to HUAC, was closely involved in Congress of Racial Equality and the ACLU, crusaded for a National Health Security Act, served on the board of Group Health Cooperative, and remains active today in Veterans for Peace.
Chicana educator and labor advocate Carmen Miranda was born in Texas in 1951. Her parents were migratory field workers. Moving to Seattle in 1972, she joined El Centro de la Raza and began a long career as a child educator and vocal advocate of civil rights
Mike Murray was 16 years old and a student at Garfield High
School when he joined the Black Panther Party in 1968. He left the party
after its first year.
Born in Seattle, her father was a Communist Party member and helped organize the International Longshoremen and Warehousemen's Union in the 1930s. Lonnie joined the Party in 1951 and has been active ever since in civil rights and Indian rights struggles, Central District organizing, the Coalition for the Defense of the Rights of the Black Panther Party, the Coalition of Labor Union Women, and Mothers for Police Accountability.
Estela Ortega is the current executive director of El Centro de la Raza. She was born in Houston, Texas and became part of Seattle’s Chicano Movement in the early 1970s. Her commitment to the Movement led Estela to volunteer at El Centro de la Raza, becoming an early activist at the center.
A member of the Black Panther Party from
1968-1972, Gary Owens had grown up in Seattle and served in the military
before joining. Among other things, he handled the party's Speakers
Born in Alaska and a member of the
Tlingit nation, Blair Paul earned a law degree at the University of
Washington and went to work in 1969 for the Seattle Human Rights Department
on behalf of urban Indians. During the Ft. Lawton takeover, he provided
logistical and legal support and was a founding board member of the United
Indians of All Tribes Foundation.
A member of the Confederated Tribes of
the Umatilla, Jeanne Raymond moved to Washington in her teens, attended
Western Washington College and then graduate school at the University of
Washington. She helped pioneer American Indian Studies at Seattle Community
College and then co-founded Seattle's American Indian Heritage High School.
A renowned artist and architect, Lawney
Reyes grew up on the Colville Reservation. With his brother, Bernie
Whitebear, and sister, Luana Reyes, he helped promote Indian activism in
Seattle, including the takeover of Ft. Lawton. Part of the architect team
that designed Daybreak Star Cultural Center, Reyes has also written two
books about his family.
Born in Texas and raised in Eastern
Washington, Riojas enrolled at UW in 1969 and became a leader of the Chicano
movement, active in both MEChA and the Brown Berets. Later earning a degree
in Health Administration, he has been the director of the Sea Mar Community
Health Centers for the past 28 years.
Jesus Rodriquez was a Chicano movement student leader at Texas Western University (now UTEP) before joining the UW's Chicano Studies program as a graduate student. A student-activist, Rodriquez was an active member of MEChA, the Brown Berets, a co-founder of SeaMar Community Health Centers.
Oscar Rosales was involved with UW MEChA, El Comite Pro-Reforma Migratoria y Justicia Social and the May 1st Action Coalition during the 2006 immigrant rights movement. Rosales continues to be an organizer for immigration reform and workers’ rights issues in Seattle.
Raised in Seattle, Rebecca
Saldana is an activist and labor organizer. Involved in farmworker
solidarity efforts with PCUN and the United Farmworkers, she worked on Fair
Trade Apples campaign. Currently she organizes janitors with SEIU Local 6
and is a board member of STITCH.
Ricardo Sanchez was Director of El Concilio for the Spanish Speaking People of King County that called attention to the dearth of Latinos hired by the county, organized cultural events, and published a newspaper called La Voz. In 1998, Sanchez founded LEAP, which played an instrumental role in introducing legislation for in-state tuition and financial aid for undocumented students.
Robert “Bob” Santos, is
the most publicly recognized spokesperson and leader of the movement that
began in the 1970s to preserve Seattle’s Chinatown/ International District.
Former president of the Catholic Interracial Council, he served for years as Executive Director of
One of the first women members of IBEW local 46,
Beverly Sims is the widow of UCWA founder Tyree Scott. She helped create
LELO (Northwest Labor and Employment Law Office) and was involved in
enforcing pioneering court decisions that mandated affirmative action in the local construction
An electrician and long time activist, Fred Simmons was raised in St. Louis. After moving to Seattle, he apprenticed as an electrician. As a member of IBEW Local 46, he helped create the Electrical Workers Minority Caucus, serving as its first president. He is also active in LELO.
Co-founder of Seattle's CORE chapter in 1961, Joan Singler helped organize campaigns against employment discrimination in grocery stories and downtown department stores, against housing discrimination, and against police harassment of African Americans.
|Smith, Charles Z.
Born in Florida, Charles Smith moved to Seattle in 1955 to attend law school at UW. Active in African American civil rights efforts, he also became a member of the Japanese American Citizens League. He served as Dean of the UW Law School and In 1988 became the first African American to serve on the Washington State Supreme Court.
Alan Sugiyama was a
leader in the Asian youth movement in the late 1960s and 1970s. He
co-founded the Oriental Student Union at Seattle Central Community
College, was active in the University of Washington’s Asian Student
Coalition, co-founded the Asian Family Affair newspaper, and was the first API elected to the Seattle School Board.
One of only three Japanese Americans to join the Black Panther Party, Mike
Tagawa was born in an internment camp, grew up in Seattle, and served in the
military before joining the party in 1968. He later helped organize the
Oriental Student Union at Seattle Central Community College.
Mayor of Seattle from 1969 to 1977, Uhlman presided over one of the most
turbulent and significant eras in Seattle's history. Only 34 years old when
he took office and more liberal than his predecessors, Uhlman changed the
tone of city politics.
Bettylou Valentine moved to Seattle in 1959 to attend graduate school. An NAACP activist, she joined CORE in the early 1960s and helped organize campaigns against employment discrimination in grocery stories and downtown department stores, against housing discrimination, and against police harassment of African Americans.
The first Filipina American elected to a state
legislature in the continental U.S., Velma Veloria came to Seattle in the
1980s to organize cannery workers under the auspices of the Union of
Democratic Filipinos (KDP). After a decade of labor activism, she turned to
electoral politics and served in the legislature for 13 years.
Founder and past President of the United
Farm Workers of Washington state, Tomas Villanueva was 14 when his
family immigrated from Mexico, settling in Toppenish three years later.
Since the mid 1960s, he has devoted his life to the struggle to unionize
| Welch, Sarah
An activist with United
Farm Workers, Sarah Welch moved to Washington from California in 1970 to help organize the lettuce boycott campaign, later helping the union lobby for farmworker rights in the state legislature.
Marion and her African American husband Ray West were active members of the Christian Friends for Racial Equality in
the 1950s and Seattle CORE in the 1960s. Marion was able to purchase a home in the racially restricted University District in the 1950s, but when neighbors discovered that she was married to Ray, and that they would rent the building out to people of color, they were driven from their home by harrasment, including a cross burning.
Bobby White joined the Black Panther Party in 1968, shortly after
returning home to Seattle after military service in Vietnam. He served
as the Seattle Chapter’s Lieutenant of Information until leaving the Party in 1970.
is an electrician
who helped integrate Seattle’s building trades in the 1970s as an
activist in the United Construction Workers Association.
The son of former Panther and former
pro-football player, Malcolm Williams, Shamseddin Williams spent part of
his childhood with the Seattle Black Panther Party.
Born in Seattle, Michael Woo attended UW in the 1960s. Beginning in 1970 he was an organizer for the United Construction Workers Association, fighting to integrate the construction trades. In 1973 he co-founded the Alaska Cannery Workers Association. Today he is the Director of LELO which carries on the legacy of those pioneering organizations.
was one of the first black apprentice
the early 1970s and an active member in the United Construction