By David K. Yoo
LOS ANGELES (Aug. 23, 2012) — UCLA History Professor Emeritus, and former Acting Director and longtime Faculty Advisory Committee Chair of the Asian American Studies Center, Alexander Saxton, passed away on August 20, 2012 in Lone Pine, Calif. at the age of 94.
Professor Saxton, throughout his time at UCLA was a staunch supporter and actively involved in the Asian American Studies Center, providing key leadership and mentoring many students over the years. Of his time at the Center, Professor Saxton said, “It turned out to be one of the most demanding (and rewarding) experiences of my life…. Being a proponent of Ethnic Studies at UCLA in the 1970s and ’80s was good combat training. There still was big opposition to Ethnic Studies on grounds that ranged from blatant racism to lack of high academic principle. We constantly had to fight for approval for research funding and core courses, and we remained endlessly involved in struggles over initial appointments and tenure promotion for scholars committed to Ethnic Studies.”
A labor organizer and novelist, Saxton brought a depth of humanity and passion for social justice to his distinguished career as a historian. Among his many publications, Professor Saxton authored the pioneering, “Indispensible Enemy: Labor and the Anti-Chinese Movement in California” (1975), one of the founding texts in Asian American history/studies.
Professor Valerie Matsumoto commented: “Alex’s path-breaking book ‘The Indispensable Enemy’ changed how historians thought about early Asian immigration and labor organizing. He was a brilliant, rigorous scholar, a generous colleague, and an inspiring teacher who mentored an enormous number of graduate students. When I arrived at UCLA, it was not always a hospitable place for ethnic studies faculty, and I will always be grateful for his friendship and support.”
In a special issue of “Amerasia Journal” (2000), Professor Saxton reflected upon his life and career in an essay entitled: “The Indispensable Enemy and Ideological Construction: Reminiscences of an Octogenarian Radical.” To read this article, please go the “Amerasia Journal” blog: http://www.amerasiajournal.org/blog/?p=1855.
For additional information, see the History Department announcement at http://www.history.ucla.edu/news-old/in-memoriam-professor-alexander-alex-saxton.
The UCLA Asian American Studies Center is invariably richer for having known and worked with Professor Alexander Saxton whose intelligence and generous spirit brought so much to so many. He will certainly be missed, but not forgotten.