Filipino American, This Month in History

Filipino American History Month and the Filipino Twirler Yo-yo

1950s-1960s “Filipino Twirler” yo-yo. Gift of Duncan F. Duncan Jr., National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.

By Marie Ramos, Fall 2012 intern

To commemorate October as Filipino American History Month*, we are highlighting a Filipino artifact from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

The Smithsonian houses several thousand Filipino and Filipino American objects, though most are in storage at the Museum Support Center.  We have baskets, swords, hats, and “souvenir” items that returning American soldiers brought with them at the turn of the century. We also have an asparagus cutting knife that was used by a Filipino agricultural worker who harvested asparagus near Stockton, California. This month we bring the “Filipino Twirler” into the spotlight, a yo-yo that has been in the Smithsonian collection since 2002.

This wooden yo-yo from the 1950s-1960s was dubbed the “Filipino Twirler.” Although the origins of the yo-yo can be traced to ancient China, interest in the U.S. did not take hold until the late 1920’s. Inspired by the bandalores, a longtime toy in the Philippines, a Filipino immigrant named Pedro Flores mass produced the “yo-yo”.  In 1928, he started the Yo-yo Manufacturing Company in Santa Barbara, California.  With his influence and launch of the yo-yo contest, the toy’s popularity skyrocketed.  Flores sold the company and trademark to the Duncan Toys Company for $250,000. The pictured yoyo was produced by Duncan’s rival, Goody Manufacturing Co.

* Filipino American History Month is celebrated in the United States during the month of October commemorating the first recorded arrival of Filipinos in the continental U.S. on October 18, 1587, by way of a Spanish galleon, that docked at what is now Morro Bay, CA. Approximately two hundred years later, the First Filipino settlement in the U.S. was established in St. Malo, Louisiana in 1763. Since then, Filipino Americans have continued to make their mark in the development of American history.

Chinese American, History, This Month in History

Vincent Chin 30 Years Later

Vincent Chin protest

Vincent Chin protest, March 1983.  Photo courtesy Helen Zia

Three decades have passed since the tragic death of Chinese American Vincent Chin.  On June 19, 1982, the night before his wedding, Chin was attacked and fatally beaten by two men as they made disparaging remarks about Asians and Asian Americans.  Chin’s attackers received a lenient sentence for his death – probation and no jail time.  Support for the Chin family spurred a new generation of pan-Asian American activism, arts and scholarship in support of civil rights and justice, and the formation of the American Citizens for Justice advocacy organization.  As a result of this political movement, Chin’s attackers were tried in federal court for violating Chin’s civil rights.  The tragedy of Vincent Chin is part of the history of coalitional politics and movements in the Asian Pacific American community, and joins the many events, both tragic and hopeful, that compose the ongoing journey for civil rights.

Event, General APA, Performance, This Month in History

This Month in History – Guam Liberation Day

Left: APA Program interns at the Guam Liberation Day ceremony on Capitol Hill. Right: Traditional Chamorro dance performance during the ceremony.

By Aaron Sayama, Summer 2012 Intern

On July 18, 2012, the Honorable Madeleine Bordallo of Guam, hosted a Guam Liberation Day ceremony on Capitol Hill, celebrating Guam’s liberation by the U.S. during World War II.  Since being liberated, Guam was designated as an unincorporated territory of the United States by the Guam Organic Act of 1950, which, among other things, granted U.S. citizenship to individuals born in Guam and introduced Guamanian representation in the House of Representatives.

At this year’s celebration, local Chamorro families prepared traditional island cuisine such as tangy kelaguen, salty fina’denne, spicy månnok kadon pika and sweet, syrupy latiyas. While guests sampled the island’s cuisine, traditional Chamorro dancers performed on stage. Through reenactments of traditional fertility and warrior dances, the audience experienced a taste of ancient Chamorro festivals.

As the son of Guamanian parents (my father is Chamorro and my mother, while Caucasian, grew up in Guam and speaks Chamorro fluently), I relish the opportunity to connect with my cultural heritage. Cultural events hosted in the hallowed halls of the American government speak to the vibrant diversity of the American community and its willingness to welcome people from all communities in shared celebration. It reminds me of the traditional Chamorro value system known as inafa’maolek. While there is no direct translation of this value system in English, inafa’maolek privileges the collective good over individual needs and desires. These guiding principles are deeply embedded within Chamorro culture and speak to our practice of mutual respect. The Guam Liberation Day celebration was a great way to experience the diverse cultures that make up the fabric of our diverse nation.

This Month in History

This Month in History: Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act

Congresswoman Patsy Mink. Photo courtesy Wendy Mink.

Congresswoman Patsy Mink. Photo courtesy Wendy Mink.

By Aaron Sayama, Summer 2012 Intern

June 23, 2012, marked the 40th anniversary of the passage of the Title IX Amendment of the Higher Education Act, otherwise known as the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act.

Just five years after Hawai’i became America’s fiftieth state, and in the same year as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, citizens of Hawai’i elected the first Asian American woman to Congress, Patsy Takemoto Mink. Representative Mink served in Congress for 12 terms, representing the first and second congressional districts of Hawai’i.

One of her most notable and enduring achievements is the Title IX Amendment of the Higher Education Act that came into effect on June 23, 1972, and it states:

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.

Mink herself faced enormous discrimination while applying to medical school, as many medical schools did not accept women. Altering her life ambitions, she was accepted by the University of Chicago Law School and received a J.D. in 1951.

While in the House of Representatives, Mink made equal access to higher education a priority. Indeed, after the death of Representative Mink in 2002, Congress named the Title IX Amendment of the Higher Education Act the “Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act.”

In 2007, Representative Hirono (D-HI), sponsored an official resolution celebrating the 35th anniversary of Title IX. In her floor speech, Representative Hirono states, “In 1972, only 9 percent of law degrees were earned by women.  Today women earn almost half of all JDs.  In fact, I am one of the many women able to go to law school because of Title IX.  The story is similar for MDs and PhDs.”

Forty years later, women and other minorities still face myriad barriers in the workplace and in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. It seems, then, the Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act is just as important today as it was in 1972.


This Month in History

This Month in History – June

By Aaron Sayama, Summer 2012 Intern

A cursory glance through a US history textbook will reveal numerous federal and state policies that were crafted with the intended purpose of excluding certain racial or ethnic groups.  The two Supreme Court cases highlighted below are significant victories for minority communities—in particular AAPI communities—in their struggle for equal rights and protection.

Weedin v. Chin Bow, June 6, 1927

Chin Bow was born in China to Chin Dun, an American citizen who had never been in the United States for a prolonged period of time.  Chin Dun’s father and Chin Bow’s grandfather, Chin Tong, however, were both born in the United States and thus United States citizens by birth.  As Chin Bow sought entry into the United States, he was categorically denied admission by Luther Weedin, the Commissioner of Immigration at the Port of Seattle.  Weedin stated that because Chin Bow’s father had not resided in the United States as an American citizen, he could not pass on citizenship to his son.  The board of special inquiry of the immigration bureau agreed with Weedin’s ruling, and the Secretary of Labor ordered Chin Bow to be deported.

In Chief Justice Taft’s majority opinion, the Court unequivocally overturned the ruling, stating that the under the law of blood (jus sanguinis), “the rights of citizenship shall descend,” and Chin Bow should be admitted to the United States.

Mildred and Richard Loving

Mildred and Richard Loving, January 26, 1965. Associated Press.

  Loving et ux. v. Virginia, June 12, 1967

In June of 1958, two residents of Viriginia, Mildred Jeter, an African American woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, were legally married in the District of Columbia.  Upon relocating to the state of Virginia, the Lovings were charged with violating Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage. After pleading guilty and relocating back to the District of Columbia, the Lovings filed a motion in state trial court arguing the ruling was in tension with the Fourteenth Amendment.   The Supreme Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of Virginia’s antimiscegenation statutes.  

Citing US Supreme Court precedents of Hirabayashi v. United States and Korematsu v. United States, Chief Justice Earl Warren strongly condemned the use of antimiscegenation statutes, calling these practices “measures designed to maintain White Supremacy.”  Chief Justice Warren’s strong denunciation of antimiscegenation statutes and the Supreme Court’s reversal allowed for white-minority couples to live legally anywhere in the United States for the first time since antimiscegenation laws were enacted at the beginning of the nineteenth century.


Supreme Court: Weedin v. Chin Bow, June 6, 1927,” The Columbia Documentary History of the Asian American Experience, pp. 208-210.

Supreme Court: Loving et. ux. v. Virginia, June 12, 1967,” The Columbia Documentary History of the Asian American Experience, pp. 368-360.

Chinese American, History, This Month in History

This Month in History: Fong See & Leticie Pruett

"On Gold Mountain" by Lisa See

"On Gold Mountain" by Lisa See

Fong See & Leticie Pruett:
An Untraditional Love Story

The saga of the See family, as depicted by Lisa See in her book “On Gold Mountain”, would have unfolded in a different way. After establishing his business in Los Angeles, Fong See, along with his wife and five children, went back to China to visit his family in 1919. Upon their return to the United States, they were denied re-entry and an investigation was conducted. Immigrant Investigator, W. G. Becktell, stated that “there appear[ed] to be some conflict of opinion as to whether an American-born white woman married to a domiciled Chinese merchant should be given a Form, or should be handled strictly under the Immigration Law.”1 This indiscretion led to some controversy regarding the sensitive issue of Chinese immigration. Eventually, the debate settled and the necessary forms were filed and approved.

On July 3, 1919, the See family was cleared by immigration officials and was allowed re-entry to the United States.  Because of this, the See family did not have to return to China and Leticie, an American, was able to return to her homeland with her American-born children and naturalized husband. This scenario, although under unique circumstances, mirrors the discrimination against Chinese and even Chinese Americans who were already allowed into the US. The Chinese Exclusion Act prevented many from immigrating to the US and for many years, there is a discrepancy to the number of male immigrants to female immigrants that made it hard for these men to start a family.

Fong See came to the United States in 1871 as a fourteen-year old searching for his father, a doctor who had been employed by the railroad industry to administer to Chinese workers who were suspicious of Western doctors and their medical practices. Upon his father’s return to China, Fong See and his two brothers took over his apothecary business. It was at his father’s shop when one fateful day, Leticie Pruett, an eighteen-year old runaway from Oregon, came asking for a job.  While working at the shop, Fong and Leticie developed a relationship and in 1897, they were contractually married through a lawyer since interracial marriages were against the law at that time.2

You can read more about Fong See and Leticie’s story in the book “On Gold Mountain”, by the See’s great-granddaughter, Lisa See. An exhibition with the same title, was shown at the Smithsonian in 2001 that featured Lisa See as one of the speakers.

1 “Immigration Memorandum re Mrs. Fong See,” The Columbia Documentary History of the Asian American Experience.

2 “From China to Chinatown: Fong See’s American Dream,”

Filipino American, This Month in History

This Month in History: Philippine Independence Day

The Philippine Declaration of Independence simultaneously marked the end of the Philippine Revolution and the Philippine Islands’ assertion to sovereignty and independence from Spanish colonial rule. However, neither Spain nor America recognized such a stake to independent nationhood, and on December 10, 1898, the Spanish government ceded the Philippines to the United States in the Treaty of Paris for the price of US $2 million, marking the end of the Spanish-American War.1

A short two months later on February 4, 1899, armed conflict erupted between Philippine revolutionary forces and U.S. military occupants in Manila. By June 2, 1899, the First Philippine Republic officially declared war against the U.S. that lasted until July 4, 1902. Approximately 20,000 soldiers were killed in action while the civilian death toll reached an estimated half-million persons.2  Though the war officially ended in the summer of 1899, guerilla freedom fighters continued to challenge U.S. occupation for several more years.

Philippine Indepedence Day 2011 in NYC. Photos by Jocelyn Gonzales.

Philippine Independence Day 2011 in NYC. Photos by Jocelyn Gonzales.

It was not until July 4, 1946, nearly fifty years later, that the United States formally recognized full Philippine independent nationhood with the enactment of the Treaty of Manila. On a rainy day in Manila’s Luneta Park, 400,000 onlookers cheered as the American flag was lowered and the Philippine flag was raised in its place. Senator Millard Tydings of Maryland reported that the day was “one of the most unprecedented, most idealistic, and most far-reaching events in all recorded history.”3

July 4 was officially recognized as the National Day until August 4, 1964 when President Diosdado Macapagal signed the Malacanang Republic Act No. 4166 that effectively made June 12—the day that General Emilio Aguinaldo and his revolutionary peers had originally claimed as the Nation’s Day—the country’s official Independence Day.

Today, Filipinos around the world from Saudi Arabia to Los Angeles, California continue to celebrate Philippine Independence Day on June 12.  In America, Filipino Americans, otherwise known as FilAms, use this day to commemorate the Philippines’ independence from colonial rule, celebrate Filipino heritage-pride, preserve cultural roots, promote cultural awareness, and bring FilAm communities together.4

The largest Philippine Independence Day celebration takes place annually in New York City on Madison Avenue between 23rd and 38th street on the first Sunday of June.  An estimated 100,000 people turn out to take part in various events and to march in a parade that represents FilAms and the 7,000 plus island clusters that constitute the Philippine archipelago. FilAms proudly donned outfits representative of their regional origins, academic affiliations, professions, favored sports team, and more.5

In Washington, D.C., the Philippine Embassy and Filipino American Organization host an Independence Day Gala, commemorative festivals, and other cultural activities.

2. “The Independence Day That Wasn’t,”

3. Ibid.

5.  “Filipino Immigrants Return to their Roots at Independence Day Parade,”

Event, Family, General APA, History, This Month in History

This Month in History: Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

APA Heritage Month Family Day at the Smithsonian

APA Heritage Month Family Day at the Smithsonian

From federal organizations to state departments all over the country, Americans of all backgrounds can learn about the contributions of Asian Pacific Americans to this nation. The Smithsonian Institution provides many such opportunities for education in public programs, exhibitions, and events, in addition to the various educational resources for schoolteachers available at the Smithsonian Education website.

Throughout the month of May, the Smithsonian Institution will feature many public programs, exhibitions, and events. A calendar of events can be found here.

Related Links:

The following is an official message from the Smithsonian Secretary, Wayne Clough, commemorating APA Heritage Month.

Dear Colleagues,

I am pleased to announce that the Smithsonian is celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month from May 1 to 31, with more than 15 events, including films, performances, talks, tours and family programs.  I hope you will all take this opportunity to learn more about the important contributions of these Americans to our nation’s culture and history. As appropriate, supervisors may grant up to three hours of administrative leave to all staff members who wish to attend these events.

This year’s feature event is a family festival at the National Museum of American History on Saturday, May 7, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. This day of activities centers on “Sweet & Sour,” an exhibition case that traces the evolution of Chinese food in the United States and the long history of Chinese immigration. Visitors can watch the film “Killing of a Chinese Cookie” and then join a discussion with director Derek Shimoda. Children and their families can work with book artist Sushmita Mazumdar to create a “kitchen memories” storybook and record their stories with teens from the Hirshhorn’s ARTLAB+ video production program. Admission is free and no reservations are required.

This is the third event in the Smithsonian Heritage Months 2011 series titled “Sights and Sounds of Heritage.” Participating Smithsonian units are the National Museum of American History, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Heritage Committee, the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program, the Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies and the Smithsonian Heritage Months Steering Committee.

Visit for a complete schedule of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month programming.

Many thanks to the Smithsonian Heritage Months Steering Committee and to all the units that contributed to these programs.  I hope you will join me in this annual celebration of Asian Pacific American history and cultural heritage.


Wayne Clough
Secretary, Smithsonian Institution

History, This Month in History, Vietnamese American

This Month in History: The Fall of Saigon – April 30, 1975

Saigon, the capital city of South Vietnam, fell to the North Vietnamese forces (comprised of the People’s Army of Vietnam and the National Liberation Front) on April 30, 1975, signaling the end of the Vietnam War and the beginning of the reunification of Vietnam under a communist regime. Despite U.S. predictions in early March 1975 that South Vietnam could hold out until at least the end of the year, the situation deteriorated far more rapidly than foreseen. By March 15, evacuations were under way as North Vietnamese troops pressed relentlessly towards Saigon.

Operation Babylift

Vietnamese refugees run for a rescue helicopter to evacuate them to safety. Photo from Smithsonian Magazine, Bettmann / Corbis

The situation escalated rapidly and in turn, the number of evacuations—both government sanctioned and individually planned—rose precipitously. Operation Babylift, which resulted in the evacuation of over 3,000 Vietnamese infants and children (many of whom were adopted by families all over the world) began on April 3 and lasted until April 26. Operation New Life, which also began on April 3, resulted in the evacuation of over 110,000 Vietnamese refugees. Operation Frequent Wind—the largest helicopter evacuation in history—was put into motion and resulted in 7,000 people being airlifted out of the city and to safety.

Through the Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act, passed on May 23, 1975, Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees were granted entrance to the United States. Thousands of refugees poured into the United States and volunteer organizations—many of them religious—came to their aid, helping them settle in to a vastly different lifestyle and culture. In the following years, more refugees—known as “boat people”—fleeing the communist regime in Vietnam would arrive in the US, bolstering the Southeast Asian population.

Another result of the war includes Amerasian children, half-Vietnamese and half-American descendants who have interracial features inherited from their soldier-dads. Ridiculed in their hometowns and often abandoned at orphanages by ashamed mothers, these children are a long lasting reminder of the American impact in Vietnam during the war.

Amerasian Youths

Retired Dallas policeman Dam Trung Thao shares stories about the vulnerable Amerasian youths he was able to steer away from the temptations of gangs and drugs in their new homeland. Photo from Smithsonian Magazine, by Catherine Karnow


Hawaiian, History, This Month in History

This Month in History: The Annexation of Hawai‘i

March 16, 1898 — The Annexation of Hawai‘i

Hawai‘i was annexed by the United States in 1898 under the presidency of William McKinley. The Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown in 1893 when American planters, threatened by a tariff on their sugar product, staged a coup and removed Queen Liliuokalani from power. The planters received assistance from U.S. sailors at a nearby Navy vessel that had been dispatched by President Harrison. Under the leadership of Samuel Dole, the planters quickly formed a new government. Although the planters favored annexation (even sending representatives to Congress in 1894), the newly elected President Cleveland opposed it and suggested a restoration of the monarchy, but it was rejected by Congress. It wasn’t until 1898, during the Spanish-American War, that Hawai‘i was officially annexed.

Due to its position in the Pacific, Hawai‘i had become important to the U.S. in the mid-1800s as a provisioning station for U.S. whaling ships. Economic ties were further strengthened by the growth of sugarcane production.  In 1875, a trade reciprocity agreement was reached to cement this new relationship. The sugarcane trade greatly shaped the composition of the Hawaiian population as the planters brought in laborers from across the Asia-Pacific region. This made the decrease of the native Hawaiian population even more stark.

There has been considerable controversy over the U.S. role in the coup and subsequent annexation of Hawai‘i. In his review of the coup, President Cleveland believed that the planter-declared republic had been aided by an act of war on the part of the U.S. In 1993, a Congressional resolution apologized for the hand that the U.S. played in the overthrow.

1891 Hawaiian Flag

1891 Hawai‘ian Flag: Kamehameha the Great commissioned the design of a flag in 1816. It has remained the official flag of the kingdom, the republic, the territory, and the state of Hawai‘i. Gift of Lt. Herbert Campbell.