Michigan Activists

Michigan Asian/Pacific Islander American politicians and activists have played crucial — if often overlooked — roles as leaders within their communities and beyond. Activists such as Grace Lee Boggs and Helen Zia set precedent for generations of new activists, breaking down racial monoliths and stereotypes of identity with their intersectional work in Civil Rights and lesbian and gay activism. Michigan A/PIA politicians Padma Kuppa and Stephanie Chang are pioneers as the first Asian American members of the Michigan Senate and House. As a whole, Michigan A/PIA leaders have always been active within their communities. But it is only in recent years that they have begun to receive attention for their hard work.


Frank H. Wu

became the dean of the Wayne State University Law School in Detroit, Michigan. His notable works include Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White and his op-ed article “Why Vincent Chin Matters” in The New York Times.

Roland Hwang

became a lecturer at the University of Michigan Department of American Culture. He has received various honors for his civil rights advocacy and teaching. Hwang is a Detroit native worked as a volunteer attorney on Vincent Chin’s case.

June 19, 1982

Helen Zia

played a crucial role in the organizing around the murder of Vincent Chin and the press for federal chargers against his killers.

Jim Toy

one of the most well-known gay activists in the state of Michigan. drafted an anti-discrimination ordinance for the city of Ann Arbor and co-authored a Gay Pride Week proclamation.

Late 1953

Grace Lee Boggs

moved to Detroit, Michigan with her husband James Boggs and continued her work focused on Civil Rights and the Black Power Movement.

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