Karl Akiya (1909-2001) was born in San Francisco and educated in Japan. Akiya, who was a vocal opponent of Japanese militarism, returned to the U.S. after his studies in 1931. Upon his return, he joined the Japanese American Citizens’ League and organized kibei membership sections in California. After a brief internment at the Topaz concentration camp, Akiya was recruited into service as a language instructor for the U.S. Army. Akiya married Satoko Murakami, a fellow instructor in 1944 and, after the war, they moved to New York City’s Lower East Side. It was there that Akiya became even more active in the civil rights, peace, and anti-nuclear movements. Akiya worked as a furniture finisher and later as a banker. He spent his evenings writing articles, essays, novellas, and a memoir. His writings were printed in The New York Nichibei newspaper and The New York Bungei, a literary magazine Akiya founded in 1959. In 1987, Akiya received the Martin Luther King, Jr. Award for Community Organizing for his work with African American youths in Harlem and Chinese and Korean immigrant workers. The Akiya Papers include personal and published writing, artwork, along with publications, pamphlets, photographs, and clippings. These materials offer insights into the life of an amazing man, and illustrate the many overlapping communities, commitments, and experiences of many Japanese Americans of his generation.
To learn more about the contents of the Karl Ichiro Akiya Papers, located at the NYU Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, view the collection’s finding aid.