The U.S. celebrates Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month each May. John F. Kennedy once said: “Our attitude towards immigration reflects our faith in the American ideal.” The American ideal is to recognize the rich cultural diversity of our nation and honor the contributions of all immigrants. Through traditional and social media, in theaters, museums, and parks, various events are organized to draw attention to Asian American and Pacific Islander culture.
History of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month
The rich history and heritage of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders is thousands of years old and is integral to the shaping of the history of the United States. Formerly known as Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, the celebration was officially renamed Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in 2009. The month-long observance recognizes the influence and contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans to the achievements and culture of the United States.
The first documented arrival of Asians in America was in 1587 when Filipinos arrived in California. The first Chinese arrived in Hawaii in 1778. The first Koreans landed in the States in 1884. The first Samoans in the United States were documented in 1920 in Hawaii and the first Vietnamese in 1912.
In the 1970s, a former congressional staffer, Jeanie Jew, proposed the idea of celebrating Asian Pacific Americans to Representative Frank Horton. In June 1977, a United States House of Representatives resolution was introduced by Horton and Norman Y. Mineta, proclaiming the first 10 days of May as Asian-Pacific Heritage Week. A month later, a similar bill was introduced in the Senate.
President Jimmy Carter made the then-week-long celebration official when he signed a joint resolution on October 5, 1978. In 1990, Asian-Pacific Heritage Week was extended to a month when George H.W. Bush signed a bill passed by Congress, designating May as Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month.
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month timeline
As a result of growing anti-Chinese sentiment, this act bans Chinese citizens from entering the U.S. for 10 years.
We have President George H.W. Bush to thank for making this month official.
Asians surpass Hispanics as the largest immigrant community — they are also the fastest-growing one.
According to a survey, 1.5 million Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islanders live in the U.S.
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month FAQs
Who celebrates Asian Pacific American Heritage Month?
Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is primarily celebrated in the United States to recognize and commend the contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans to the heritage and history of the United States.
Who are Pacific Islanders?
Pacific Islanders are people whose origins are from the original peoples of Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia.
Is there a Native American Month?
On October 31, 2019, President Trump proclaimed November 2019 as National Native American Heritage Month.
How to Observe Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month
Cook a traditional recipe
Embark on a cultural culinary journey in your kitchen! Begin with fresh ingredients and serve up some Asian or Hawaiian dishes.
Join the social media celebrations
You don’t have to be an Asian American or Pacific Islander to join the fun on social media. Maybe you have a friend or neighbor who is one. Tag them in posts relevant to the day.
Travel back to your roots
Connect with relatives and trace your genealogy. Don’t forget to record your experiences in a memoir and make your family tree. It's something the next generation can treasure!
5 Facts About Asian Americans And Pacific Islanders
The Chinese arrived first
Chinese immigrants came in the mid-19th century to work on the railroads and gold mines.
Aloha is not a simple "Hello"
The Spirit of Aloha is a law that all Hawaiians, including tourists, must follow and respect by emoting good feelings for others.
New 'home' states
More than half of all Pacific Islanders live in two states — Hawaii and California.
The Largest Asian American Population
Hawaii has the largest Asian American population — nearly 800,000.
36% of Asian Americans say religion is very important in their lives.
Why Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is Important
It honors immigrants
Asian American immigrants and Pacific Islanders contribute greatly to the U.S. economy. This is a time to recognize how they have strengthened our communities.
We learn about diversity
Events and activities give us a glimpse of Asian American and Pacific Islanders’ rich cultures.
It emphasizes racial equality
Celebrations like these keep the healthy dialogue between different races alive.
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month dates