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Adams County School District 14

May 2, 2022 | News

The month of May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

The month of May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, which celebrates the contributions and histories of individuals of Asian and Pacific Islander descent in the United States. The term Asian American and Pacific Islander includes persons with ancestry from the continent of Asia and/or the Pacific Islands of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. 

In the 1970s, a former congressional staffer Jeanie Jew shared the idea of designating a month to recognize Asian/Pacific Americans with New York Rep. Frank Horton. Jew’s great grandfather M.Y. Lee, who left China for the United States in the 1800s, contributed to building the transcontinental railroad and, during a period of anti-Chinese and anti-Asian sentiment, was killed in Oregon.

In 1977, Rep. Horton introduced House Joint Resolution 540 to proclaim the first ten days in May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week. In the same year, Hawaii Sens. Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga introduced a similar resolution, Senate Joint Resolution 72. Neither of these resolutions passed.

However, in 1978, Rep. Horton introduced House Joint Resolution 1007, which proposed that the president should proclaim the first 10 days of May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week. The resolution passed in both the House and Senate, and President Jimmy Carter signed the resolution into law on Oct. 5, 1978. After a decade of advocacy by community organizations, the week-long celebration was eventually extended to include the entire month of May in 1990. In 1992, Congress passed Public Law 102-450, which annually designated May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month. In 2009, President Barack Obama signed Proclamation 8369, which recognized the month of May as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

The month of May was intentionally selected as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.