AAPI Heritage Month- Celebrating and Remembering Those of the AAPI Community
Each year in May, people around the nation choose to remember and honor people of the AAPI community as well as AAPI heritage. The term Asian American was invented in 1968 by two activists, Emma Gee and Yuji Ichioika. The purpose of creating the term was to unify a political identity for various groups of people of Asian descent. The term Asian American went against the usage of the Euro-centric term “oriental”. This offensive term connected Asians in the United States to racist and colonialist implications.
In the 1980s, the United States Census Bureau classified people of Asian ancestry within the category Asian and Pacific Islander (API). Then, in 2000, API separated into Asian Americans, Native Hawaiian, and Other Pacific Islanders (NHOPI). AAPI is a very broad term. Today, Asian/Pacific includes all Asian continents, the Pacific Islands of Melanesia, (New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji, and the Solomon Islands), Micronesia (Marianas, Guam, Wake Island, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, and the Federated States of Micronesia) and Polynesia (New Zealand, Hawaiian Islands, Rotuma, Midway Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia, and Easter Island).
Representative Frank Horton of New York introduced the House Joint Resolution 540 in 1970 to announce the first 10 days in May as Pacific/Asian American Heritage Week. During that same year, Senator Daniel Inouye introduced another resolution. This resolution was called the Senate Joint Resolution 72. None of these resolutions were passed, however, in June 1978, Representative Heron presented House Joint Resolution 1007. This meant that the first ten days in May 1979 would be declared as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week. This resolution was passed by both the House and Senate and signed by President Jimmy Carter on October 5, 1978, which would be called the Pub Law 95-419. Pub Law 95-419 would later be amended and directed the presidents to declare proclamations for Asian/Pacific Heritage Week.
In 1990, Congress then passed Pub Law 101-283, causing Asian/Pacific American Week to be Asain/Pacific Heritage Month for 1990. Asian/Pacific Heritage Month was annually designated May in 1992 when Congress passed Pub Law 102-450. In 2009, during a presidential proclamation, President Barack Obama lengthened Asian/Pacific American remembrance to include Pacific Islanders and provided a proclamation in honor of Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
May was chosen to remember the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843. Manjiro was a 14-year-old boy who was fishing when he got caught in a fierce storm. His ship washed up 300 miles away from the coastal Japanese village. Five months later, Manjiro was rescued by an American whaling ship. Manjiro would later be adopted by American Captain William Whitfield. The captain would rename Manjiro as John Mung. Manjiro was brought to Captain William Whitfield’s home in Massachusetts. Manjiro would eventually return home and become a professor, samurai, emissary between Japan and the West.
The month is also to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The Maj. In the 1850s, Chinese immigrants first arrived were Chinese immigrants, the U.S. They would attempt their chance at the California gold rush. The civil disturbance and poverty in southeastern China also prompted many Chinese people to migrate. After the gold rush’s end, some Chinese immigrants worked as farm laborers, in low-paying industrial jobs, or railroad construction. Chinese laborers were actively recruited to do intense work cutting and making tunnels to conquer the wall of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
They had to work through harsh weather conditions, in both freezing winters and scorching summers. Hundreds perished from eruptions, landslides, accidents, and illness. The immigrants also were not well paid for their immense work. Chinese workers hired in 1864 were paid $26 a month and worked six days a week. These 15,000 to 20,000 Chinese immigrants’ work on the Transcontinental Railroad also helped to form the physical and social landscape of the American West.
Research Coordinator - Jezreel Gaad
Illustration - Lily Tan
Graphics - Thea Sinsin