WASHINGTON, D.C. — Todd Endo, likely the last surviving Asian American participant in the 1965 voting rights demonstrations in Selma, Ala., will be returning for the 50th Anniversary Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee on March 7-8. Endo will be sponsored and accompanied by a delegation from the JACL, the nation’s oldest and largest Asian American civil rights organization.
Endo was born only 23 days after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Despite his American citizenship, Endo and his family were uprooted from their Los Angeles home and incarcerated in Rohwer, Ark., solely because of their Japanese ancestry.
The Endo family was incarcerated for more than two years before moving to Ohio in 1944 with the help of the Quaker-based American Friends Service Committee. The family eventually settled in the Washington, D.C-Maryland area following World War II, where Endo found himself the lone Asian American student in his elementary, middle and high schools.
As a recent graduate of Oberlin College, Endo marched with the JACL in the 1963 March on Washington and heard Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his “I Have a Dream” speech firsthand.
Two years later, prompted by the death of acquaintance Rev. Jim Reeb and with support from JACL, Endo traveled from Boston to Selma, Ala., and participated in the 1965 Voting Rights demonstrations.
One of only a handful of Asian Americans (an article he wrote for JACL’s Pacific Citizen newspaper in 1965 noted that he saw as many as five), Endo planned protests with members of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and Southern Christian Leadership Conference, as well as demonstrated in the streets of Selma under the scrutiny of Sheriff Jim Clark and his deputies.
Endo’s experience in Selma led the former Harvard Ph.D candidate to forgo his goal of becoming a history professor and shift his focus toward actively reforming the educational system and curriculum. Presently, Endo works as an organizer in Arlington, Va.’s immigrant communities.