How '10-toes Takaki' changed U.S. history

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From where he came, no one could have predicted what Ronald Takaki would become. Raised in a low-income area of Oahu, Hawaii, a descendant of Japanese immigrants who toiled in sugar cane plantation fields, he cared more about surfing than schoolwork.

The pioneering and beloved professor of more than 30 years at University of California, Berkeley, and prolific author who helped change how American history is written, died on May 26.

In the 1960s, he earned a master's and doctorate in history from UC Berkeley, where he wrote a dissertation on slavery in America. It was during this period that he "was born intellectually and politically," he told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2003, the year of his retirement.

He taught, in the aftermath of the violent Watts riots, the first black-history course at UCLA, where he was a "socialist" amid his conservative department peers, his son said. Later, at UC Berkeley, he helped create the nation's first doctorate program in comparative ethnic studies and institute a required undergraduate course on American cultures, a class in diversity education.

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