Asian Pacific Heritage Week originated in a congressional bill in 1978 sponsored by the U.S. Representatives Frank Horton and Norman Y. Mineta and U.S. Senators Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga. Twelve years later, President George H.W. Bush signed an extension making the week-long celebration into a month-long celebration. May was chosen because the first Japanese immigrant arrived in the United States in May of 1843 and the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad, on which many Chinese laborers worked, was held on May 10, 1869.
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The first Filipinos in what would become the United States land in Morro Bay, California
Filipino sailors travel across the Gulf into Louisiana’s bayou country and settle there. These “Louisiana Manila men” are the oldest continuous Asian American settler community in North America.
John Newton, one of the earliest documented South Asians in the U.S., is listed in the Virginia Gazette as a runaway indentured servant.
In People v. Hall, the murder conviction against George W. Hall was reversed because all three witnesses were Chinese. This case established a precedent that Chinese Americans or Chinese immigrants could not legally testify against white people in court.
Central Pacific Railroad Company hires first of 12,000 Chinese workers, many from Canton, China.
In the era’s largest labor strike, thousands of Chinese railroad workers for the Central Pacific Railroad Company stage a strike to demand equal pay to white laborers, shorter workdays, and better conditions.
First Japanese settlers arrive on the U.S. mainland, in California.
Naturalization Act of 1870 restricts naturalized citizenship to white and Black people.
California Circuit Court rules that “Mongolians” are not eligible for naturalization.
California’s Second Constitution prohibits the employment of Chinese people.
Chinese Exclusion Act suspends immigration of Chinese laborers for 10 years.
Philip Jaisohn arrives in the U.S. as a political exile, becoming the first Korean to be naturalized as a U.S. citizen.
In Yick Wo v. Hopkins, the Supreme Court rules that law with unequal impact on different groups is discriminatory.
Constitution of the Hawaiian Kingdom: a minority of subjects of the Hawaiian Kingdom and foreign nationals, which included citizens of the United States, met in a mass meeting to organize a takeover of the political rights of the native population in the Kingdom.
The U.S. invades the Hawaiian Kingdom and overthrows Queen Liliʻuokalani.
The U.S. occupies Guam after the Spanish-American War and the Treaty of Paris of 1898.
The U.S. annexes eastern Samoa, and Germany annexes the western part of the islands.
Five hundred white men violently attack two hundred South Asian migrant workers in Bellingham, Washington to expel them from town. Within ten days, the entire South Asian population flees Bellingham to seek safer conditions.
Duke Kahanamoku, Native Hawaiian athlete and actor, wins his first of five gold medals in swimming at the Stockholm Olympics.
American Samoa’s Mau movement for independence from American colonialism is suppressed by the U.S. Navy. Samuel Sailele Ripley, who led the movement, is exiled from American Samoa but later serves as mayor of Richmond, California.
In United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind, the Supreme Court rules that South Asians cannot be naturalized.
Immigration Act of 1924 effectively prohibits immigration of all Asians.
With Executive Order 9066, the U.S. incarcerates 120,000 Japanese Americans in concentration camps.
Chinese-born American artist Tyrus Wong works as a lead production illustrator on Disney's Bambi, taking inspiration from Song dynasty art.
Congress repeals Chinese Exclusion Act and grants naturalization rights.
The Philippines gains independence from the United States.
The Luce-Celler Act permits Filipinos and Indians to immigrate and grants them naturalization rights.
Wing Ong is first Asian American elected to state office (Arizona).
U.S. grants 5,000 educated Chinese refugee status after Communist takeover of China.
Guam Organic Act of 1950 established Guam as an unincorporated organized territory of the United States.
Dalip Singh Saund of California becomes first Indian American in Congress.
Hiram Fong of Hawaii becomes first Chinese American in the Senate.
Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii becomes first Japanese American in Congress.
Patsy Takemoto Mink of Hawaii becomes first nonwhite woman in Congress.
Seeking fair pay and safe working conditions, the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, made up mostly of Filipino farmworkers, begins the five-year-long Delano Grape strike in California that prompts a global grape boycott.
Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 eliminates national-origins quota system and grants immigration priority to relatives of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, professionals and other individuals with specialized skills, and refugees.
Emma Gee and Yuji Ichiok coined the term “Asian American” by creating the University of California, Berkeley’s Asian American Political Alliance (AAPA). AAPA would later be part of the third world Liberation Front, which demanded that the University support the scholarship and underemphasized histories of African Americans, Asian Americans, Chicanos/Chicanas, and Native Americans.
Vietnam war ends, leading to large migration from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.
Chinese American Physicist Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu becomes the first woman to be president of the American Physical Society.
Native Hawaiian musician and activist George Helm Jr. and his organization Hui Alaloa lead an effort to end the bombing of the island Kaho’olawe by the U.S. Navy for target practice bombings.
First Asian/Pacific American heritage Week is celebrated.
Vincent Chin, a Chinese American in Detroit, is killed by two white men because they thought Chin looked Japanese. The two men faced minimal consequences, spurring protests and outrage that united the Asian American community.
The Free Chol Soo Lee movement successfully free Lee, a Korean immigrant, from death row after he was wrongfully convicted in a San Francisco Chinatown murder. After reporter K.W. Lee shed light on the problematic police investigation and trial, widespread support for a remarkable grassroots social movement ensued. This movement united diverse groups of Asian and Asian Americans in a common cause of justice and freedom for Lee.
Ellison Onizuka becomes first Asian American astronaut in space.
Haing S. Ngor, Cambodian American surgeon and actor, becomes the only actor of Asian descent to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his debut performance in “The Killing Fields.”
Gerald Tsai of American Can becomes first Asian American CEO of Fortune 500 company.
After a decade of campaigning from the Japanese American Citizens’ League, the U.S. grants $20,000 in reparations to each survivor of incarceration during World War II.
Amerasian Homecoming Act allows children born to Vietnamese mothers and U.S. servicemen to immigrate.
Jay Kim of California becomes first Korean American in Congress.
Several women including Helen Zia, Christina M. Regalado, Dawn-Thanh Nguyen, Lisa Hasegawa, and Kiran Ahuja found the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum to address six central issues: civil rights, economic justice, educational access, ending violence against women, health, and immigrant and refugee rights.
Gary Locke of Washington becomes first Asian American governor of mainland state.
Andrea Jung of Avon becomes first nonwhite woman CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
Secretary of Commerce Norman Mineta becomes first Asian American Cabinet member.
Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao becomes first woman Asian American Cabinet member.
Organizations such as the Sikh Coalition and South Asian Americans Leading Together mobilize after the rise in violence against and surveillance of Muslim, Sikh, South Asian, and Arab American communities following 9/11.
Dr. Wen Ho Lee, a U.S. citizen, is charged with spying for China; a federal judge later apologizes to Lee for being “led astray” by the Department of Justice.
Kalpana Chawla, the first woman of Indian descent to go into space, is one of seven crew members who died on the Columbia Space shuttle.
Bobby Jindal of Louisiana becomes first Indian American governor.
Apolo Anton Ohno becomes most decorated American Winter Olympian, with eight medals.
Nikki Haley of South Carolina becomes first woman Indian American governor.
Kevin Tsujihara of Warner Bros. becomes first nonwhite CEO of a major Hollywood studio.
First Asian American U.S. Marine Officer, Maj. Kurt Chew-Een Lee, dies at the age of 88.
Kamala Harris becomes the first woman, first Black person and first Asian American to serve as Vice President of the United States.
California State University becomes the first university system in the U.S. to add caste to its anti-discrimination policy.