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Being 1 out of 4 Asians at Harvard Law School

When I went to law school, I started in 1958 so our class graduating was '61, and I already had our 50th anniversary already. But when I went to law school, I went to Harvard you know?- it’s a big school, one of the biggest schools in the country. Harvard Law School has over an entering class over 500 people. So I think in a class of 500, there were probably 3 Japanese Americans- myself and 2 boys from Hawaii-, and there was one woman who was Korean. So there were 4 Asians in a class of 500- less than 1%. So it was quite different in those days. 

Asian Americans law

Date: July 2, 2014

Location: California, US

Interviewer: Sakura Kato

Contributed by: Watase Media Arts Center, Japanese American National Museum; Japanese American Bar Association

Interviewee Bio

Born in Santa Maria California, Judge Atsushi Wallace Tashima is the first Japanese American and the third Asian American in history to serve on a U.S. Court of Appeals. He was born to Issei immigrants and spent three years of his childhood in the Poston War Relocation Center in Poston, Arizona. When Tashima entered his first year of Harvard Law School in 1958, he was one of only 4 Asian American students at Harvard. Nevertheless, Tashima went on to lead a 34 year-long career as a federal judge. In 1980, Tashima was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California by President Carter. After serving 15 years on the U.S. District Court, President Clinton elevated Tashima to the U.S Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which covers the nine western states on the West Coast. As as 2004, Tashima assumed senior status and currently sits in the Ninth Circuit Pasadena Couthouse in Pasadena, CA.  (August 2014)

*This is one of the main projects completed by The Nikkei Community Internship (NCI) Program intern each summer, which the Japanese American Bar Association and the Japanese American National Museum have co-hosted.

Sabrina Shizue McKenna
Sabrina Shizue McKenna

Initial Interest in Law

(b. 1957) Justice of the Supreme Court of Hawaii.


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