celebrating Asian-American heritage: why May is AANHPI heritage month

The power of visibility can never be underestimated.

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The quote from Margaret Cho in the featured image says it best: visibility and representation matter. But of the 12 months, why choose May to celebrate Asian-American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month? 🤔

The answer is that May is when some important milestones 📍 took place in the Asian history of the United States.

Over time, the month has taken on new importance — as a time to recognize that Asian-American identity has many different facets.

May marks two important dates in Asian-American history.

Two important events took place in Mays gone by — both of which were in the 1800s.

The 19th century was a time of explosive growth in the U.S. At the start of the century, the nation was mostly agrarian, with a population of about 5 million. A hundred years later, America was one of the world’s most industrialized countries with a population of 76 million.

Much of this growth came from immigrants, who reshaped the culture of America in innumerable ways. 💪

🚢 May 7, 1843 is significant as the date the first Japanese immigrants arrived on the nation’s shores.

🚂 May 10, 1869, meanwhile, marked the completion of the transcontinental railroad — an undertaking to which tens of thousands of Chinese immigrants contributed.

The official recognition of Asian-American heritage has expanded over time.

Initially, the U.S. only celebrated Asian immigrants for about a week. In 1978, the federal government proclaimed the first 10 days of May “Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week.”

Fifteen years later, the celebration was expanded to a month. It was renamed “Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.”

Then, five years after that, the federal government created a new Census category: Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander. (Prior to 1997, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders reported their race as Asian.)

That’s why, today, the month of May is Asian-American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This May, the month’s theme is “Building Legacy Together: Our Communities’ Journey of Strength and Resilience.”

We’re excited to celebrate the AANHPI contribution to American culture and society! 🥳

Photo by Billy Pasco on Unsplash.

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