Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month




The effort to officially recognize Asian American and Pacific Islander contributions to the United States began in the late 1970s. In 1977, New York representative Frank Horton and Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye introduced separate joint resolutions proclaiming the first ten days of May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week. Neither resolution passed, so representative Horton introduced another resolution the following year, which requested the president to proclaim a week during the first ten days of May starting in 1979 as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week.

President Carter signed Public Law 95-419 on October 5, 1978. In 1990, Congress expanded the observance from a week to a month. May was designated as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month in 1992 during the George H.W. Bush administration.

The month of May was chosen to commemorate:
1. The date of the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843.
2. The completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants. 

The U.S. Census Bureau currently defines a member of the U.S. Asian population as "a person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent including, but not limited to, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam."

The U.S. Census Bureau identifies Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander (NHPI) as "a person having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands."

It is important to note that there are many Asian diasporas across the world representing many different languages, religions, cultures, and faiths.

A Few Fascinating Facts

1. Asian Americans are not a monolithic group of people. Asia is made of 4.46 billion people in 48 countries speaking over 2,300 languages with rich and diverse ethnic, cultural, and religious backgrounds, so that Asian Americans live with vastly different cultural, religious, and linguistic traditions. 

2. Chinese immigrants came in the mid-19th century to work on the railroads and gold mines.
3. The first documented arrival of Asians in America was in 1587 when Filipinos arrived in California. Evidence also suggests that the first Japanese individual to arrive in North America was a young boy in October 1587. It is believed that he accompanied a Franciscan friar.
4.During World War II, while the United States was at war with Japan, about 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry- most of whom lived on the Pacific Coast- were forcibly relocated and incarcerated in concentration camps, losing their legally owned properties. Sixty-two percent were American citizens. About 80,000 were second and third generation American born Japanese people with American citizenship.
5. The term "Asian American" was first used in 1968 when students at the University of California in Berkeley were inspired by the Black Power movement and protests against the Vietnam War to found the Asian American Political Alliance (AAPA). Their purpose was to unite different ethnic student groups of Asian heritage on their campus, signaling an interconnected history of immigration, labor exploitation and racism, as well as a common political agenda. It was also used as pushback against the pejorative word "oriental".

Local Events Celebrating AAPI Heritage Month

Family Festival: Reimagining Tradition- Philadelphia Museum of Art- Sunday, May 5, 10 AM to 3 PM




Asian American Experience