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May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Have you ever heard of Duke Kahanamoku, Steven Chu, I.M. Pei, Thuy Vu, or Dalip Singh Saund? If not, you might want to brush up on your history (see answers below).

May is a great time to learn about the immigrant experience of Asian and Pacific Islander peoples in the United States and their contributions to our history.

America’s civil rights movement helped pave the way for the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, which abolished a discriminatory “national origin” quota system that had persisted since the 1920s. This expanded our melting-pot demographic beyond the traditional European immigration to include immigrants from countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Mediterranean region.

In 1977, the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate introduced bills to recognize Asian Pacific American Heritage week. Both bills passed. In 1978, President Carter signed a Joint Resolution designating the annual celebration. In 1990, President Bush signed a bill extending the celebration to a month-long affair.

The official designation of May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month was signed into law in 1992. May was chosen for two historic reasons: the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to America in May of 1843, and the completion of the transcontinental railroad in May of 1869, thanks in large part to Chinese immigrants who helped lay the tracks.

Today, the U.S. Census Bureau recognizes over 30 ethnically distinct groups originating from Asian and Pacific regions of the world. According to the most recent census report there are more than 22 million Asian Pacific Americans in the U.S., with the largest population living in California. Time to expand your knowledge!

Right here in Morgan Hill, we explored our Japanese American history and heritage in our 2018 installment of our “Stories from the Past” docuseries. Watch it now.

Answers: Duke Kahanamoku - Olympic champion. Steven Chu - Nobel Prize winner. I.M. Pei – world renowned architect. Thuy Vu - Emmy-winning news anchor. Dalip Singh Saund - Political Pioneer. Each of these noteworthy people have Asian or Pacific Islander ancestry.

A few APA resources:

Asian Pacific Heritage,

Filipino American National Historical Society,

National Japanese American Historical Society,

Korean American Historical Society,

Indian American Association of Santa Clara,

Chinese American Historical Society,

Morgan Hill Buddhist Center (est 1967),

A few books to read:

Farewell to Manzanar, by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James Houston

Little Manila is in the Heart, by Dawn Bohulano Mabalon

The Lowland, by Jhumpa Lahiri

On Gold Mountain, by Lisa See



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