Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month is a celebration of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States. Asian-Pacific encompasses the entire Asian continent and the Pacific islands of Melanesia (New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and the Solomon Islands), Micronesia (Marianas, Guam, Wake Island, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru and the Federated States of Micronesia) and Polynesia (New Zealand, Hawaiian Islands, Rotuma, Midway Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Easter Island).
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month recognizes the history, concerns, contributions and achievements of Asian Pacific Americans and their role in this country’s history. The Asian Pacific American experience has its roots in the Asian continent and islands across the Pacific Ocean, but like so many other communities in America, Asian Pacific Americans worked to expand American’s frontiers, forging the rail road tracks that linked sea to shining sea. They shed blood to defend the nation and stood up to preserve its cherished values, in classrooms and courtrooms, in legislatures and in the streets.
Asian-Pacific Heritage Month originated in a congressional bill. In June 1977, Reps. Frank Horton of New York and Norman Y. Mineta of California introduced a House resolution that called on the president to proclaim the first ten days of May as Asian-Pacific Heritage Week. The following month, senators Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga introduced a similar bill in the Senate. Both were passed. On October 5, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed a Joint Resolution designating the annual celebration. Twelve years later, President George H.W. Bush signed an extension making the week-long celebration into a month-long celebration. In 1992, the official designation of May as Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month was signed into law.
The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.
The Law Library of Congress has compiled guides to commemorative observations, including a comprehensive inventory of the Public Laws, Presidential Proclamations and congressional resolutions related to Asian Pacific Heritage Month.
Information for this blog post was obtained from the Smithsonian website and a website containing information from the Library of Congress, the National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Thanks to IMSA students Simona Stancov ’15, who created the beautiful IRC bulletin board pictured in this entry and Nicole Schubert ’15, who selected books and videos for the library display.