Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is celebrated in May. Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders contribute to a rich and deeply ingrained legacy across the country.
The first joint resolution permitting the President to designate a week-long celebration of Asian and Pacific American heritage was enacted by Congress in 1978. After President Jimmy Carter’s declaration on March 28, 1979, the inaugural Asian and Pacific American Heritage Week was during the week of May 4, 1979.
The proclamations were increased to a month-long celebration in 1990. The prior proclamations, as well as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and annual recognition in May, were recognized by Congress in 1992.
In 2009, President Barack Obama issued a proclamation that included Pacific Islanders in the commemoration.
May was chosen as the month to remember the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants in the United States on May 7, 1843, as well as the completion of the transcontinental railroad by over 20,000 Asian immigrants on May 10, 1869. The first Asian immigrants to the United States arrived in 1587 when Filipinos began moving to California. By 1920, the first Samoans were reported in Hawaii. Immigrants from the Asian mainland and the Pacific Islands continued to arrive.
Over 20 million individuals of Asian and Pacific Islander ancestry live in the United States. This accounts for about 6% of the population and reflects a rich and diverse range of cultures and experiences (can you say “Asian Fusion”?).
Learn more about these heritages by:
During Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, communities commemorate Asian and Pacific American successes and contributions via community festivals, government-sponsored events, and educational programs for students.