May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, also known as Asian and Pacific American Heritage Month! This month, we'll be highlighting Asian and Pacific Americans who've made their mark on the history and development of our diverse United States.
But first...some history!
Asian and Pacific American Heritage month was the idea of former congressional staffer Jeanie Jew who first approached Rep. Frank Horton about the idea of designating a month to recognize Asian Pacific Americans, following the United States’ bicentennial celebration in 1976. In June 1977, Horton and Rep. Norman Y. Mineta, introduced a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives to proclaim the first 10 days of May as Asian Pacific Heritage Week. A month later, a similar bill was introduced in the Senate by former U.S. Senators Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga.
President Jimmy Carter signed a joint resolution for the celebration on Oct. 5, 1978. In 1990, George H.W. Bush signed a bill passed by Congress to extend Asian American Heritage Week to a month. On May 14, 1991, a public law was passed unanimously by congress and then signed by Bush, proclaiming May 1991 and May 1992 as Asian and Pacific American Heritage Month. By 1992, May was officially designated as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
The month of May was chosen because it commemorates the migration of the first immigrants from Japan to the United States on May 7, 1843 and to celebrate the completion of the transcontinental railroad by over 20,000 Asian immigrants on May 10, 1869. However, the first Asian immigrants arrived in the U.S. in 1587 when Filipinos first began migrating to California. Immigrants continued to come from the Asian continent and the Pacific Islands through 1920 when the first Samoans were documented in Hawaii.
Meike Schwarz and the Editorial team at New Mexico's INFLUENCE Magazine