IPR is featuring some of the many AAPI pioneers who impacted the field of public relations in celebration of AAPI Heritage Month
Aki Kurose was born in Seattle, Wash., in 1925 to Japanese immigrant parents. She lived and went to school with a diverse group of children from her working-class neighborhood in Seattle’s Central District.
When Kurose was a senior in high school, the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred and changed the trajectory of her life. In 1942, the U.S. government incarcerated her and her family in a World War II imprisonment camp. She completed her high school education while incarcerated and became involved with the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) that helped incarcerated college-age Japanese Americans obtain leave clearance to attend colleges outside of the internment zone.
She attended college outside of the camp, graduated in 1948, and moved back to Seattle. While trying to find a new home there, Kurose and her husband faced discriminatory real estate practices and a shortage of available housing. Influenced by this discrimination, Kurose became involved in the open housing movement of the 1950s, working with the AFSC and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).
Kurose also had a passion for education and helped establish Washington state’s first Head Start program in 1965. She became a teacher in the Seattle Public Schools as the federally mandated desegregation of schools began. Her students’ white parents were resistant to her appointment at first, but Kurose won the respect of parents and peers alike. She won several local and national awards for teaching, including the United Nations Human Rights Award for her work integrating peace advocacy with education. She died in 1998.
“Peace Empowers: The Testimony of Aki Kurose, a Woman of Color in the Pacific Northwest” – Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, 22:3 (2001)