A Different Mirror

A Different Mirror


Ronald Takaki

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A Different Mirror Characters

Ronald Takaki

Ronald Takaki is the author of A Different Mirror. He was born in Hawaii to Japanese-American parents, and notes in his book that because of this, people often don’t see him as American—even though… read analysis of Ronald Takaki

President Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson was one of the Founding Fathers and the third president of the United States. From Virginia, he expressed a belief in abolishing slavery even though he was an enslaver himself. He regarded black… read analysis of President Thomas Jefferson

President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Franklin D. Roosevelt was the 32nd president of the United States. During his time in office, he signed the New Deal and other acts of legislation that helped the country emerge from the Great Depression… read analysis of President Franklin D. Roosevelt


Caliban is a character in Shakespeare’s play The Tempest. He is indigenous to the island upon which Prospero and the other characters are washed up, and is exploited during Prospero’s attempt at colonization… read analysis of Caliban

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass was an orator, writer, and abolitionist. Born into slavery, Douglass was of mixed racial heritage and suspected that he was possibly the son of his enslaver, a man named Thomas Auld. After escaping… read analysis of Frederick Douglass
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Martin Delany

Martin Delany was an abolitionist and black nationalist who was descended from Mandingo royalty. After having his offer to attend Harvard Medical School rescinded on account of racism, he planned to establish a nation for… read analysis of Martin Delany
Minor Characters
Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus was an Italian explorer and colonizer who was credited with “discovering” the Americas in 1492. Originally thinking he had arrived in Asia, Columbus’ arrival in the Americas instigated European colonization.
President Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States, and presided over the Civil War. After the Union won the war, he signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which abolished slavery throughout the US.
Eleanor Roosevelt
Eleanor Roosevelt was the wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. She often attempted to push her husband in a more progressive direction on matters of race.
Langston Hughes
Langston Hughes was an African American poet and member of the Harlem Renaissance. He wrote a poem discussed by Takaki entitled “Let America Be America Again” (1936).
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English playwright who lived during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; he is likely the most famous writer in Western history. His play, The Tempest, which is often read as an allegory for colonialism, serves an important role in Takaki’s analysis.
In The Tempest, Prospero is an exiled Italian duke who is washed ashore of an exotic island, which he decides to colonize. As such, Prospero represents the European colonizers of the Americas.
Sally Hemings
Sally Hemings was a woman enslaved by President Thomas Jefferson and his family. While she was underage, Jefferson began raping her, and she ended up giving birth to several of his children.
President Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson was the seventh president of the United States. Before becoming president, he profited hugely from opening Chickasaw land that he’d purchased to white settlement. He wanted to “destroy” the Native population and favored taking their land by force.
Booker T. Washington
Booker T. Washington was an educator, author, and orator famous for a speech that came to be known as the “Atlanta Compromise.” Although Washington publicly shared moderate and conciliatory demands, in reality he was more radical than many believed him to be.
Abbott Lawrence Lowell
Abbott Lawrence Lowell was president of Harvard University between 1909-1933. He welcomed the admission of Irish students to Harvard, but opposed the admission of other ethnic groups, and installed a “Jewish quota” that limited the enrollment of Jews to 10-15 percent.
President Theodore Roosevelt
President Theodore Roosevelt was the 26th president of the United States.
John Collier
Collier was the Commissioner of Indian Affairs in the 1930s. He oversaw a disastrous program wherein he forced Navajos to give up their sheep, claiming that sheep overgrazing was causing soil erosion, when in fact it wasn’t.
Marcus Garvey
Marcus Garvey was a Jamaican-born black nationalist who began the Black Star Line, a proposed method of transporting black Americans back to Africa. The endeavor failed, and Garvey was deported from the US.
W.E.B. Du Bois
W.E.B. Du Bois was a writer and sociologist who was the first black American to gain a PhD from Harvard.
President Harry Truman
Harry Truman was the 33rd president of the United States. The descendant of enslavers, he held racist views about most ethnic groups in the US.
Rabbi Stephen Wise
Rabbi Wise was the leader of the American Jewish Congress during the Second World War. He unsuccessfully attempted to persuade the Roosevelt administration to give Jewish refugees asylum in the US.
President Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan was the 40th president of the United States. Despite being right-wing, he supported the rights of undocumented immigrants and provided them with pathways to become legal citizens.
Thurgood Marshall
Thurgood Marshall was a lawyer and leader of the Civil Rights Movement.
A. Philip Randolph
A. Philip Randolph was an early Civil Rights leader.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was a minister and the most famous leader of the Civil Rights movement. He was assassinated by the American government in 1965.
Malcolm X
Malcolm X was a black power activist. He was assassinated by the US government.
President George W. Bush
George W. Bush was the 43rd president of the United States. His administration oversaw the establishment of a temporary migrant worker program to meet the need for agricultural workers without providing a pathway for US citizenship.
President Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton was the 42nd president of the United States. He invited Takaki along with a group of Civil Rights leaders to advise him on a speech about race he gave in 1997.
President Barack Obama
Barack Obama was the 44th president of the United States. Born in Hawaii to a white mother and Kenyan father, Obama was the first black president.