One hundred and thirteen years after Dosan Ahn Chang-Ho set his first step onto the American soil, his footprint was now permanently honored as a part of the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame, located at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center, Atlanta, GA. It was also an appropriate time to celebrate his accomplishment and legacy as Korea celebrates 70 year anniversary of its Independence from Japan.
On August 13, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta was invited to the unveiling of Dosan Ahn Chang-Ho’s footprints which now resides with those of many other Civil Rights activists, such as Rosa Parks and Congressman John Lewis at the International Civil Righst Walk of Fame at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site.
Born in 1878, Ahn Chang-Ho was an Korean independence activist who entertained and set out to exercise clear reforms to education and the modernization of schools in Korea, two of the most important efforts dedicated by Ahn Chang-Ho. Also known as Dosan (도산)- his pen name- Ahn Chang-Ho was respected as a patriotic figure who fearlessly fought for democracy and independence to prevent Korea from being obliterated by Japanese imperialists.
Since he was young, Dosan, with the ultimate goal of reforming and modernizing the nation of Korea, studied Western Education and became a great leader and educator. To seek better education, Dosan and his wife arrived in the United States in 1902, which made them the first married Korean couple to set foot on the Mainland. To advocate for his mission, Dosan circumnavigated the globe, starting in America in 1902 and going on to travel across Asia, Russia and Europe to return successfully to New York in 1911, making him the first Korean to go all around the world. During his immigration into the U.S., Dosan managed to establish the Friendship Society in 1903 and Mutual Assistance Society in 1905 to reform the local Korean community in San Francisco, California by establishing the Young Korean Academy in San Francisco in 1913.
Leaving behind his legacy to the Korean people in America, Dosan returned to Korea through China in 1926 to protest out of love for his country and his people. Irritated by Dosan’s anti-Japanese and patriotic activism, Japanese imperialists arrested and tortured him multiple times during his imprisonment. Dosan never came back to America. He was released on bail by Japanese authorities and died in a the Kyungsung University hospital on March 10, 1938 after he lived an honorable life. Many scholars believe that, had he lived beyond Korea’s liberation in 1945, Korea would not be divided.
The induction of Dosan Ahn Chang-Ho was a recognition of his beliefs and work. We wished someday there would be more people who could interpret his legacy in a more global context and understand his contribution to the advancement of civil rights.