This article explores the ways that Seattle’s Asian American—and in particular Japanese American—community negotiated the shifting terrain of racial politics in the late 1960s and early 1970s. While Seattle’s city leaders—and indeed many in the civil rights establishment—heralded the city for its racial liberalism, a young cadre of activists organized across racial and ethnic boundaries and challenged established leadership to articulate a robust, anti-racist, working-class multiracial politics. Significantly, the rise of Black and Asian anti-racist solidarities exploded the city’s narrative of exceptional racial harmony in an age of social crisis. Activists adopted a capacious definition of community that could acknowledge specific identities while simultaneously coalescing around a shared sense of injury. They also practiced a form of grassroots politics that was flexible and improvisational, that was enacted both within and outside established organizations and channels, and that ultimately blurred the distinction between moderation and radicalism.

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