Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Saturday, May 1 and ends on Monday, May 31

Sources: Wikipedia, Bonusly, U.S. Census Bureau

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is celebrated during the month of May and recognizes the contributions and influence of Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans to the history, culture, and achievements of the United States.

So, why May? It commemorates the first Japanese people to immigrate to the United States, on May 7, 1843, and also is a nod toward the May 10, 1869 completion of the transcontinental railroad.

History:
In 1976, congressional staffer Jeanie Jew witnessed the United States’ bicentennial celebration (it’d been 200 years since the Declaration of Independence was signed) and was troubled by the lack of recognition for AAPI contributions. Her great-grandfather, M.Y. Lee, had immigrated to the United States in the 1800s to help build the transcontinental railroad—a tremendous accomplishment that was blighted by violent anti-Asian discrimination and the introduction of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

She’d mentioned her concerns to New York Congressman Frank Horton, and it took until 1992—more than 15 years later—before the legislation to permanently designate May as AAPI Heritage Month passed through Congress.

“The revelations about Mr. Lee and the story of Asian Americans led [Jeanie Jew] to believe that not only should Asians understand their own heritage, but that all Americans must know about the contributions and histories of the Asian-Pacific American experience in the United States.” –New York Congressman Frank Horton

Now, 23 million Asian American and Pacific Islanders trace their roots to more than 20 countries in East and Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent, each with their own unique histories and cultural practices. This area includes, for example, China, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, the Philippines and Samoa; and in South Asia, includes India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Singapore and Bhutan.” The AAPI community consists of more than 50 ethnic groups, grouped together as a demographic purely because of vague geographic borders; it’s impossible to capture a singular “Asian-American” experience.

Often seen as a monolithic “model minority,” you should first understand that “Employment and economic status among members of the AAPI community are also far from uniform: While some AAPI subpopulations are heavily concentrated in higher-wage professional and management occupations, others are heavily concentrated in lower-wage service occupations.”

Bonus Facts:

Why many AAPI People have been in America before our ancestors:
The first Asians documented in the Americas arrived in 1587, when Filipinos landed in California; from 1898 to 1946, the Philippines was an American possession.

The next group of Asians documented in what would be the United States were Indians in Jamestown, documented as early as 1635.

In 1778, the first Chinese to reach what would be the United States, arrived in Hawaii. In 1788, the first Native Hawaiian arrived on the continental United States, in Oregon; in 1900, Hawaii was annexed by the United States.

The next group of Asians documented in what would be the United States were Japanese, who arrived in Hawaii in 1806.  In 1884, the first Koreans arrived in the United States.

In 1898, Guam was ceded to the United States; beginning in the 1900s
Chamorro’s (indigenous people of the Mariana Islands, politically divided between the United States territories of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in Micronesia) began to migrate to California and Hawaii.

In 1904, what is now American Samoa was ceded to the United States; beginning in the 1920s, Samoans began to migrate to Hawaii and the continental United States, with the first Samoans documented in Hawaii in 1920.

In 1912, the first Vietnamese was documented in the United States.

Today there are more than 300,000 living Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander American veterans.

Did You Know?

22.9 million: The estimated number of Asian alone-or-in-combination residents in the United States in 2019.

5.2 million: The estimated number of the Asian population of Chinese, except Taiwanese, descent in the United States in 2019. The Chinese (except Taiwanese) population was the largest Asian group, followed by Asian Indian (4.6 million), Filipino (4.2 million), Vietnamese (2.2 million), Korean (1.9 million) and Japanese (1.5 million). These estimates represent the number of people who reported a specific detailed Asian group alone, as well as people who reported that detailed Asian group in combination with one or more other detailed Asian groups or another race(s).

54.6%: The percentage of the Asian alone-or-in-combination population age 25 and older who had a bachelor’s degree or higher level of education in 2019.

88.3%: The percentage of the Asian alone-or-in-combination population age 25 and older who had at least a high school diploma or equivalency in 2019.

577,835: The estimated number of Asian-owned employer firms in the United States in 2018.
For further information go to https://asianpacificheritage.gov/images/

There you will find virtural exhibits and collections celebrating AAPI.

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