Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month is observed in the United States each May. The recognition of these communities originated as “Asian Pacific Heritage Week” when Representatives from the 95th Congress passed five joint resolutions proposing a week in May be designated to AAPI accomplishments. President Jimmy Carter proclaimed the first 10 days in May as "Asian-Pacific Heritage Week" in 1979. The official designation of AAPI Heritage Month was signed into law in 1992 when President George H.W. Bush extended the celebration to be the whole month of May.
The month of May was chosen to commemorate the first Japanese Immigrants who came to the United States in May of 1843, and the May 1869 completion of the Transcontinental Railroad - which was built mainly by Chinese immigrants. AAPI Heritage Month is about recognizing the achievements and history of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. The AAPI community is an extremely diverse one, with radically different cultures, religions, foods, and languages across the board.
"The American story as we know it would be impossible without the strength, contributions, and legacies of AANHPIs [Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islanders] who have helped build and unite this country in each successive generation. From laying railroad tracks, tilling fields, and starting businesses, to caring for our loved ones and honorably serving our Nation in uniform, AANHPI communities are deeply rooted in the history of the United States" (United States Department of Agriculture, 2021).
Left Image: Representative Patsy Mink announces the formation of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus at a press conference with (left to right) Representatives Don Edwards and Norman Mineta, Guam Delegate Robert Underwood, and Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Neil Abercrombie, 1994
Right Image: A store in Oakland, California hangs a sign reading "I am an American." The store was closed following orders to persons of Japanese descent to evacuate from certain West Coast areas. Dorothea Lange, 1942.
U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2021). Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month. https://www.usda.gov/oascr/special-emphasis-programs/aanhpi#:~:text=The%20official%20designation%20of%20May,signed%20into%20law%20in%201992