May marks the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869, which was built primarily by Chinese immigrant labor. While Asian Pacific Americans have been central to the American story, it took members of congress, Representatives Frank Horton of New York and Norman Y. Mineta of California, and Hawai‘i Senators Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga, to lobby their colleagues and the President to recognize what had been earned through sacrifice in military service and public service, and through the countless ways that Asian Pacific American communities have made America their love and home.
Twenty years ago, President George Bush signed Public Law 102-450 permanently designating May of each year as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Through the month of May, The May Project will post the reflections of Asian Pacific Americans who are associated with the Smithsonian, imagining, celebrating and teaching America from perspectives that are not always recognized and in a way that suggests the importance of these voices.
As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the month of May being permanently designated Asian Pacific American Heritage Month we can reflect on a number of dates that have defined Asian Pacific American communities in one way or another: 2012 marks 30 years since the controversial death of Chinese American Vincent Chin; 60 years since U.S. citizenship was granted to those born on the island of Guam; 60 years since the first AAPI Member of Congress, Dalip Singh Saund, served as a judge and as a delegate to the convention of a major political party; 70 years since Executive Order 9066 authorizing the Japanese American Internment; 100 years since planting of first cherry blossoms from Japan; 130 years since the Chinese Exclusion Act; and 150 years since the Pacific Railroad Act of 1862 promoting the construction of the transcontinental railroad.
Want to see your own story in the May Project? Send your submission to Molly at higginsme(at)si(dot)edu.