Women’s History Month: Yuri Kochiyama

Yuri Kochiyama
Photo courtesy of the Kochiyama family/UCLA Asian American Studies Center.

Born: May 19, 1921 in San Pedro, California

Died: June 1, 2014 in Berkeley, California

Bio: Yuri Kochiyama, the daughter of Japanese immigrants, was incarcerated during World War II at the Jerome Relocation Center in Arkansas. While in the center, she taught Sunday school and wrote letters to Nisei (or first-generation Japanese American) soldiers.

After she was released from the center, she moved to New York City and, in 1946, married Bill Kochiyama, a veteran of the all–Japanese American 442nd Infantry Regiment. She later became a human rights activist and was famously photographed cradling the head of Malcolm X following his assassination.

In the years that followed, Kochiyama’s activism only increased. She joined the Young Lords Party, a Puerto Rican political action group, and labored to free political prisoners. She was also a part of the redress and reparations movement for Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II. Kochiyama was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.

You can learn more about the life of Yuri Kochiyama at the Encyclopedia of Arkansas.