Throughout May, we celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) heritage and recognize how their communities’ contributions have enriched America’s history.
This celebration includes communities from the Asian continent and Pacific islands, including Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia.
1000-1200 AD: Polynesian voyagers were the first people to settle the Hawaiian Islands.
1763: Filipino Americans established their first settlement in North America after escaping forced labor during the Spanish galleon trade.
1850s: Asian immigrants migrated to the West Coast during the Gold Rush, working in gold mines, factories, and the transcontinental railroad.
1898: The Supreme Court upholds the principle of birthright citizenship. This allowed U.S.-born Asian American, children and grandchildren of immigrants, to have U.S. citizenship.
1965: The Immigration and Nationality Act allowed large numbers of Asians and Pacific Islanders to come to the United States with their families.
1979: Asian Pacific American Heritage Week is signed into law, commemorating the immigration of the first Japanese people to the United States and the completion of the transcontinental railroad.
1982: The Vietnam War Memorial is dedicated in Washington, D.C., designed by Maya Lin, the daughter of Chinese immigrants.
1990: Asian Pacific American Heritage Week is extended to a month-long observance.
2021: Kamala Harris becomes the first female, first Black individual, and first Asian American vice president of the United States.
AAPI heritage in our communities
Portland, Oregon was home to Japantown from 1890 to 1942, known today as Old Town-Chinatown. This town grew to include more than a hundred Japanese businesses and offices as the Japanese population grew from 20 in 1890 to 1,460 in 1910.
Utah was a key resettlement state following the Vietnam War. The Asian Association of Utah offered support for refugees, including housing and other basic needs. About 12,000 refugees from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia settled in Utah between 1975 and 1990.
The transcontinental railroad linked the eastern and western United States. The Central Pacific workers started in Sacramento California, and the Union Pacific workers began in Omaha, Nebraska, meeting at Promontory Summit, Utah.
Contributions to healthcare
The National Resource Center on AAPI Aging was established in 2015, the nation’s first and only technical assistance resource center dedicated to building the capacity of long-term service and support systems to equitably serve AAPI older adults and their caregivers.
Asian Americans for Community Involvement was founded in 1973 to help resettle Vietnamese refugees. Today the organization focuses on health and wellness, offering services for children, youth, and adults.
Dr. Margaret Chung was the first American-born Chinese female doctor. She established the first Western hospital in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
Follow us on social media to continue learning through the month! Download this flyer in honor of AAPI Month below.