Spotlight on Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

asian pacificMay is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month – a celebration of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States. A rather broad term, Asian-Pacific encompasses all of the 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).

Like most commemorative months, 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 upon 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 Library offers many resources to learn more about Asian-Pacific culture here are a few resources to get you started.


Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Celebrating the achievements of people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent in the United States

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month celebrates the achievements of people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent in the United States. Comprising many ethnic groups, including Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Hawaiian, and peoples of more than 20 other ethnicities, Asian Americans enrich the national landscape with their respective histories, traditions and cultural heritage.

This diverse group of people faced intense prejudice and hardships in the United States, from the 1858 California legislation barring entry of Chinese immigrants to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. But despite these and many other challenges, Asian and Pacific peoples have made lasting contributions in all facets of American society.

Fields of technology, sports, education, science, business, medicine and the arts demonstrate Asian Americans’ historical and contemporary accomplishments and innovations. SIRS Knowledge Source celebrates Asian Pacific American Heritage Month with articles on Asian Americans and their rich legacy. Articles include:


1. A Daring Virtuoso Aims for Harmony

2. Black? White? Asian? More Young Americans Choose All of the Above

3. Young Japanese-Americans Honor Ethnic Roots

4. ‘Paper Sons,’ Hidden Pasts

5. A Chinese Voice Grows Louder

6. Attacks on Asians Highlight New Racial Tensions


Densho: The Japanese American Legacy Project

Read more articles from our Spotlights by logging on to our SIRS Knowledge Source® feature page.