PBS HAWAI‘I PRESENTS
Biography Hawai‘i: Koji Ariyoshi
Koji Ariyoshi lived a remarkable life at the center of events that transformed Hawai‘i, America, China and the world. Born on a Kona coffee plantation in 1914, he worked as a stevedore in Honolulu while attending the University of Hawai‘i. He was employed on the San Francisco docks when World War II broke out, and soon found himself at Manzanar internment camp for American Citizens and aliens of Japanese ancestry.
When he enlisted in the U.S. Army, his language skills led to an assignment which ultimately carried him to Yenan, China, where he observed Communist re-education camps for Japanese POWs and worked closely with several of China’s future leaders, including Mao Zedung. After returning to Hawai‘i, Ariyoshi became involved in union activities, and soon was editing the Honolulu Record, the voice of labor during the turbulent conflicts between unions and Hawai‘i’s ruling elites.
In August 1951, Koji Ariyoshi was one of the activists arrested and charged with being a Communist – a small group that had become known as the Hawai‘i Seven. Eventually acquitted, he later became a founder and champion for the University of Hawai‘i’s Ethnic Studies and Oral History programs, and for state historic preservation. This documentary contains interviews with family and friends, commentary by cultural historians, and stunning footage for wartime China.