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Asian Pacific American Heritage

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and is a time to celebrate and pay tribute to the contributions of generations of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who have enriched and contributed to American history, society, and culture. Like most commemorative months, Asian Pacific Heritage Month originated in a congressional bill, creating a week-long celebration. Twelve years later, President George H.W. Bush signed an extension making the week-long celebration into a month-long celebration (Presidential Proclamation 6130). In 1992, the official designation of May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month was signed into law (Pub.L.102-42).

Norman Mineta

Norman Mineta

American politician Norman Mineta (born 1931), was the first Asian-American cabinet member; he served under both the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. Mineta, an American of Japanese descent, was forced into an internment camp during World War II, and as a member of Congress during the 1990s, he lobbied for the United States government to issue an official apology and financial restitution to families such as his. As Secretary of Transportation in the administration of George W. Bush, Mineta oversaw an agency of 100,000 employees and a $60 million budget amid heightened security concerns in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

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Senator Daniel K. Inouye

Senator Daniel K. Inouye

United States Senator Daniel K. Inouye was the first American of Japanese descent to serve in the Congress. A highly decorated war hero, he served as a representative of the state of Hawaii on its entrance into the union in 1959, first in the House of Representatives and then moving to the Senate in 1962. He first came to national attention at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, where he made a poignant appeal in his keynote address for racial understanding. In 1973 and 1974 he once again drew national attention as a member of the Senate Watergate Committee, which investigated alleged wrongdoing by Republicans during Richard Nixon's 1972 reelection campaign. Aside from these high profile achievements, Inouye's distinguished legislative career led him to become one of the senior members of Congress.

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Tyrus Wong

Tyrus Wong

Tyrus Wong is legendary among production artists in the movie industry, both for his exquisite scene design for Disney Studios' 1942 animated classic Bambi, and his mentorship of younger colleagues both there and at Warner Brothers Studios during the mid-20th century. Wong lived to the advanced age of 106, and in his 90s was a familiar sight flying his handmade kites on Santa Monica Beach in Southern California. The elaborate dragons, butterflies, and centipedes he sent aloft were merely the latest among many art forms he mastered over the course of his long life. Aside from decades in the movie studios, Wong illustrated greeting cards for Hallmark and painted elegant dinnerware for manufacture, in addition perfecting his skills in printmaking, sculpting ceramics, and painting landscapes in his private home studio. His long and remarkable life was chronicled in a television documentary for the Public Broadcasting System's (PBS) American Masters series, titled simply Tyrus.

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Taika Waititi

Taika Waititi

New Zealander Taika Waititi has done standup comedy and acting. He is also an artist. He has written and directed both independent films and Hollywood blockbusters. In 2017 he drew acclaim for directing the box-office hit Thor: Ragnarok. That same year, he was named New Zealander of the Year.

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Dwayne Johnson

Dwayne Johnson

Dwayne Johnson, also known as The Rock, was the youngest champion in World Wrestling Federation (WWF) history. Johnson's exotic looks--and impressive physique--helped make him one of the top-earning personalities in his field throughout the 1990s and 2000s. His 2000 autobiography, The Rock Says...: The Most Electrifying Man in Sports-Entertainment, spent five months on the New York Times best-seller list, and the following year Johnson made his feature-film debut in The Mummy Returns. Since then Johnson has made a name for himself outside the wrestling ring with action films such as The Scorpion King (2002), G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013), and several installments of the Fast & the Furious franchise; children's films such as Tooth Fairy (2010) and Moana (2016), and even comedies such as The Other Guys (2010), Pain & Gain (2013), and Baywatch (2017). In 2011 Johnson returned to the ring as The Rock and routinely appeared in the wrestling ring over the next decade. In 2015 he starred in his first ever television series, Ballers, a sports comedy that saw its fifth season premiere in 2019.

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Elaine L. Chao

Elaine L. Chao

In 2001, Elaine L. Chao became the first Asian-American to hold a Cabinet-level post in the U.S. government when she was named Secretary of Labor, and she went on to become the longest-serving member of President George W. Bush's original cabinet. A native of Taiwan, Chao had previously served as the chair of the Federal Maritime Commission as well as the head of the Peace Corps and the United Way of America. In 2017, Chao was named secretary of transportation under President Donald Trump.

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New York City native Awkwafina began her career with an entertaining series of rap videos that established her as a boundary-crossing performer. Since making her YouTube debut in 2012, the Queens-born Nora Lum effected a seemingly effortless transition into acting, appearing in two major box-office releases in mid-2018, Ocean's 8 and Crazy Rich Asians. The latter film's director, Jon M. Chu, was a longtime fan of the viral videos Awkwafina made and told the Washington Post that he permitted the novice actor some creative freedom with her character and dialogue. "I was like, 'This will either ruin the movie or take the movie to another level,'" Chu told reporter Jessica M. Goldstein. "But she knew exactly what she was doing." Awkwafina continued her winning streak in the film The Farewell (2019), with her performance earning her critical acclaim and netting her a Golden Globe Award for best performance by an actress in a motion picture--musical or comedy.

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Duke Kahanamoku

Duke Kahanamoku

Considered the father of modern surfing, Duke Kahanamoku (1890-1968) developed the skills that would gain him international fame as an Olympic champion, swimmer, and surfer.

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Dr. Feng Shan Ho

Dr. Feng Shan Ho

Dr. Ho Feng-Shan is most famous for helping European Jews escape Nazi rule and the Holocaust in the 1930s. Ho worked in Chinese foreign ministry in Austria. He issued visas to European Jews so they could escape Europe and travel to China and other countries.

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Steven Chu

Steven Chu

Steven Chu, the former U.S. Secretary of Energy and a winner of the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics, took his reputation as a scientific innovator to the nation's capital to push for new environmental policies and breakthroughs in the search for energy. A remarkably creative thinker, Chu discovered a way to trap atoms in extreme cold that has led to experimental breakthroughs and the production of atomic clocks. In the mid-2000s, Chu directed a major government science lab and used the position as a platform to advocate new, environmentally friendly energy technologies. As a top Obama Administration official, he pressed Congress and foreign governments to create policies that limit greenhouse gases and combat climate change.

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Yo-Yo Ma

Yo-Yo Ma

Winner more than 17 Grammy Awards, cellist Yo-Yo Ma possesses astounding technical brilliance and an awe-inspiring artistic sensibility. He virtually defined the standard for future cellists, and during his prolific career recorded more than 50 albums, between 1983 and 2000. Ma never hesitated to explore fresh musical terrain and the music of other cultures, and often explored the musical forms outside of the Western classical tradition. Ma immersed himself in projects as diverse as native Chinese music and it's distinctive instruments, the music of the Kalahari bush people in Africa, and tango music. Ma became one of the most sought-after cellists of his time, appearing with eminent conductors and orchestras throughout the world. He also gained a deserved reputation as an ambassador for classical music and its vital role in society. Ma was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 for his contributions to classical music.

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Maya Lin

Maya Lin

Once referred to as the "black gash of shame," according to Time's Jonathan Coleman, the memorial commemorating the nearly 60,000 American veterans who died in the Vietnam War has become the most popular landmark in Washington, D.C., attracting millions of visitors to its black granite walls to touch the carved names of the dead men and women who served during the 1960s and 1970s in America's most controversial military action. Maya Lin, the creator of this monument, was at first harshly criticized for her design, which many charged was unsentimental, degrading, even ugly; Lin herself was attacked on racial grounds, many vets believing that her heritage as a Chinese American made her an unacceptable memorialist. Since its 1982 unveiling, however, the massive monument has come to symbolize America's willingness to "not only finally...confront the outcome of the Viet Nam War but also to begin the long process of healing," wrote Coleman, who added that the memorial "made it possible for the country to come together and honor those who had served--those who had died and those who had come home to anything but a hero's welcome."

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Amy Tan

Amy Tan

Amy Tan first gained acclaim in 1989 for The Joy Luck Club, a beautifully spun tale of generational and cultural differences in Asian American families focusing on mother-daughter relationships. Though her novels eloquently convey elements of the rich Chinese culture, they have universal appeal due to their insightful treatment, human emotions, and themes common to everyone: loss and hope, family ties and reconciliation, failure and success. The tales in her books are told from the points of view of a number of the characters, lending a more personal appeal. She has remained a popular writer with works such as The Hundred Secret Senses (1995), Saving Fish From Drowning (2006), and The Valley of Amazement (2013). In 2017, Tan released her memoir Where the Past Begins: A Writer's Memoir.

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Jerry Yang

Jerry Yang

Jerry Yang teamed with fellow Stanford student David Filo to make the emerging World Wide Web a place that could be navigated. What started out as a part-time project mostly for their own benefit turned into Yahoo! Inc., one of the world's most used search engines for the Web, complete with personalized features for shopping, searching, connecting, and using the Internet.

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Michelle Wing Kwan

Michelle Wing Kwan

The most decorated American figure skater in the sport's history, Michelle Kwan became one of the most respected and admired athletes of her generation for her grace on and off the ice. First making headlines in 1994 when she was named an alternate to the American team at the Lillehammer Olympics during the Tonya Harding scandal, Kwan was a national silver medalist at the age of thirteen. At fifteen, she claimed her first U.S. and World Championship titles and at the 1998 National Championship delivered performances in the short and long programs that received the highest-ever marks in the modern history of the sport.

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Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi was a major political and spiritual leader of India. In an age of empires and military dominance, Gandhi used nonviolent activism to free his people from colonial rule (one nation gaining political and economic control of another, usually lesser developed, country and its resources) in India and racial oppression in South Africa. His use of civil disobedience (to peacefully disobey laws in protest of government policy) to achieve change inspired similar movements for freedom and human rights around the world. Gandhi earned the title of Mahatma (Great Soul) for his efforts to ease the burden of poverty and ignorance for the poor. A student of Hindu philosophy, Gandhi lived simply and was recognized in India as the Father of the Nation.

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Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama (Lhamo Thondup; born 1935), the 14th in a line of Buddhist spiritual and temporal leaders of Tibet, fled to India during the revolt against Chinese control in 1959 and from exile promoted Tibetan religious and cultural traditions.

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Kamehameha I

Kamehameha I

Kamehameha I (ca. 1758-1819), first king of the Hawaiian Islands, conquered and united the islands. He became a statesman who knew how to keep the best of the old ways while adopting the best of the new.

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H.E.R. is the stage name of R&B singer and songwriter Gabriella Wilson. The acronym stands for "Having Everyting Revealed." H.E.R.'s debut EP H.E.R., Vol. 1 was released in 2016 to great acclaim. She released several more EP's through 2018 in the lead up to her debut album, which she continued working on through early 2019. H.E.R. has earned several Grammy Award nominations for her work, and in 2019 her song "Best Part" and her compilation album H.E.R. were awarded Grammys for best R&B performance and best R&B album, respectively.

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Bobby Jindal

Bobby Jindal

Bobby Jindal is the first Indian American to be a state governor and one of the youngest governors in the nation's history. He was the second Indian American to serve in the U.S. Congress. A natural leader, Jindal has a résumé as impressive as some politicians in their sixties or seventies. His accomplishments began early; Jindal was only 33 when he became a congressman. By then he had already run for governor of Louisiana and almost won, directed a system of universities in Louisiana, managed a huge department of state government, led a national commission made up mostly of U.S. senators and congresspeople, and worked as an aide to former U.S. president George W. Bush. Sworn in as Louisiana's governor in 2008--at age 36--admirers attribute Jindal's success to his intelligence and a confidence that has converted many skeptics. In 2015 he announced his bid for the presidency. However, after failing to gain nationwide popularity, Jindal cancelled his run.

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Yuri Kochiyama

Yuri Kochiyama

Yuri Kochiyama was best known for her work as a civil rights activist, starting in the 1960s. Kochiyama was friends with Malcom X, and was with him when he died. She promoted equal rights for African Americans and for women.

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George Takei

George Takei

George Takei is a Japanese American actor. He is best known for his role as Hikaru Sulu, helmsman of the USS Enterprise, on the 1960s series Star Trek. Takei is also an outspoken advocate for equality. In 2012 he began to dabble in social media and soon had millions of followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. He also writes a popular blog.

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As we take time to honor these Americans, we should also stop and recognize the current challenges that Asian and Pacific Americans are facing. the violence and hatred that has been directed at Asian Pacific Americans in recent days and months. The rash of attacks, hate speech, and discriminatory actions happening across the country, based on false narratives about the origins of COVID-19, are an affront to our community’s values and the civil rights that every Asian Pacific American holds. The Prince George’s County Memorial Library System (PGCMLS) community fervently condemns these actions and stands in solidarity with our Asian Pacific American relatives, neighbors, friends, and colleagues. We grieve for the lives lost and forever impacted by this senseless violence.

Stop Asian Hate


Celebrating Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month 2020

This Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month we honor those who have pioneered the way. While we recognize the Asian American groundbreakers and game changers, we also recognize those who support diversity and inclusion supporting all cultures, including AAPIs. This AAPI Heritage Month is different than many others as we experience a world wide pandemic affecting the AAPI community in unfortunate ways. Let's continue working towards progress in uniting our nation. Happy Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

Japanese American Internment (with Captions)

Teachable Moments are short films that provide a quick overview of important topics and events from the Roosevelt Era. Created by the FDR Library's Education staff with the support of the Pare Lorenz Center, they are designed to assist primary and secondary school students.

The Making of Asian America: A History

In the past fifty years, Asian Americans have helped change the face of America and are now the fastest growing group in the United States. But as award-winning historian Erika Lee reminds us, Asian Americans also have deep roots in the country. The Making of Asian America tells the little-known history of Asian Americans and their role in American life, from the arrival of the first Asians in the Americas to the present-day. A book signing will follow the program.

Oh, the Stories They Tell: Chinese Exclusion Acts Case Files at the National Archives (2017 May 10)

Although the search for a Chinese Exclusion Act case file may be difficult and challenging, the rewards can be great as these files may contain a treasure trove of information for the family and social historian. Presented by the National Archives at Seattle Director Susan Karren in recognition of the Chinese Exclusion Act’s 135th anniversary.

We Need To Talk About Anti-Asian Hate

We need to talk about the rise of anti-Asian hate and attacks. Join Eugene for an in-depth conversation about the complex, often untold story of the Asian American community, the unique struggles they face, and find out how you can help #StopAsianHate​.

What Pacific Islanders Want You To Know

"I had to teach myself about myself"

Asian Pacific American Heritage Timeline



The first Filipinos in America landed 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.




Central Pacific Railroad Company hires first of 12,000 Chinese workers.


First Transcontinental Railroad.




First Japanese settlers arrive on U.S. mainland, in California.


Naturalization Act of 1870 restricts naturalized citizenship to Whites and Blacks.




California Circuit Court rules that “Mongolians” are not eligible for naturalization.


California’s Second Constitution prohibits the employment of Chinese.




Chinese Exclusion Act suspends immigration of Chinese laborers for 10 years.


First recorded Korean immigrants.




In Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 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.




United States invasion and overthrow of Queen Liliʻuokalani and the Hawaiian Kingdom.


United States occupies Guam after the Spanish-American War and the Treaty of Paris of 1898.




United States annexed eastern Samoa, and Germany annexed the western part of the islands.


In United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind, Supreme Court rules that Asian Indians cannot be naturalized.




Immigration Act of 1924 effectively prohibits immigration of all Asians.


Executive Order 9066 results in 120,000 Japanese Americans being sent to internment camps.




Congress repeals Chinese Exclusion Act and grants naturalization rights.


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 Senate.


Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii becomes first Japanese American in Congress.




Patsy Takemoto Mink of Hawaii becomes first nonwhite woman in Congress.


Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 eliminates national-origins quota system.




Vietnam war ends, leading to large migration of Southeast Asians.


First Asian/Pacific American heritage Week is celebrated.




Ellison Onizuka becomes first Asian American astronaut in space.


Gerald Tsai of American Can becomes first Asian American CEO of Fortune 500 company.




Civil Liberties Act of 1988 pays surviving Japanese American internees $20,000 each.


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.


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.


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.




Bobby Jindal of Louisiana becomes first Indian American governor.


President Barack Obama appoints three Asian Americans to Cabinet.




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.


Online Exhibits

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Event Highlights
Virtual Asian American Art Museum
Chinese Historical Society of America
A Day in the Queer Life of Asian Pacific America
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Art Intersections: Asian-Latino Pop-Up Museum
Asian Art Museum: Museum from Home
Digital Exhibits from the Smithsonian
The National Archives Celebrates Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Online Resources


Thu, Apr 29, 4:00pm - 5:00pm

Mon, May 10, 7:00pm - 8:00pm
Virtual Branch - West Area Virtual Events

Tue, May 11, 7:00pm - 8:00pm

Thu, May 13, 7:00pm - 8:00pm

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