Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month

In May, the Village of Wellington observes Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, an annual celebration that recognizes the historical and cultural contributions of individuals and groups of Asian and Pacific Islander descent to the United States. AAPI Heritage Month 2022 takes place from Sunday, May 1, to Tuesday, May 31. 

The theme for AAPI Heritage Month 2022 is “Advancing Leaders Through Collaboration.” The campaign encourages local and national governments to prioritize collaboration, development, diversity, transparency, and inclusion through leadership training of AAPI people.

Visit History.com to learn more about the observance of  AAPI Heritage Month.

The AAPI umbrella term includes cultures from the entire Asian continent including East, Southeast, and South Asia and the Pacific Islands of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. As of 2019, there were about 22.9 million people of Asian or Pacific Islander descent in the United States. According to the Pew Research Center, AAPI people are a diverse and growing population that makes up about 7% of the total U.S. population.  

Origins of AAPI Heritage Month

The effort to officially recognize Asian American and Pacific Islander contributions to the United States began in the late 1970s and took over 10 years to make it a permanent month-long celebration.  In 1977, New York representative Frank Horton introduced a resolution that proposed proclaiming the first 10 days of May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week. Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye introduced a similar joint resolution the same year. When the resolutions did not pass, Horton introduced a bill the following year, which requested the president to proclaim a week during the first 10 days of May starting in 1979, including May 7 and 10, as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week.  After the House and the Senate passed the Resolution, President Jimmy Carter signed it into law on Oct. 5, 1978. From 1980 to 1990, each president passed annual proclamations for Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week. In 1990, Congress expanded the observance from a week to a month. May was annually designated as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month in 1992 under the George H.W. Bush administration. Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month was renamed AAPI Heritage Month in 2009.

How May Become Known as Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month

Watch this video to learn the history of how May came to be known as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

Why celebrate AAPI Heritage Month?

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have contributed significantly to many facets of American culture and society, including science and medicine, literature and art, sports and recreation, government and politics, and activism and law.  In 2021, Kamala Harris became the first Asian American vice president of the United States. In film history, AAPI people, stories, and traditions have become more visible with South Korean director Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite winning the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2019 and the release of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings in 2021, debuting Marvel’s first Asian superhero.

AAPI people have a long history in the United States, despite the stereotype that they are “perpetual foreigners,” the idea that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are inherently foreign, other, and not truly American. According to the Bering Land Bridge Theory, Asians first migrated to what is now known as North America over 15,000 years ago through a land bridge between Asia and North America. In the 16th century, Filipinos who were escaping forced labor and enslavement during the Spanish galleon trade immigrated to North America, eventually establishing a settlement in St. Malo, La., in 1763. During the California Gold Rush of the 1850s, a wave of Asian immigrants came to the West Coast and provided labor for gold mines, factories, and the transcontinental railroad. In 1882, Congress enacted the Chinese Exclusion Act, which banned Chinese immigration for 20 years.

Japanese and Koreans began immigrating to the United States by 1885 to replace Chinese labor in railroad construction, farming, and fishing. However, in 1907, Japanese immigration was restricted by a “Gentlemen’s Agreement” between the United States and Japan. The civil rights movement assisted the liberalization of immigration laws. The 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act changed restrictive national origin quotas and allowed for the large numbers of Asians and Pacific Islanders to come to the United States with their families. In the mid-1970s, refugees from Southeast Asia like Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos came to the United States to flee war, violence, and hardship.

Today, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are the fastest-growing racial group in the United States. AAPI Heritage Month celebrates the unique journey of all AAPI immigrants and citizens in the United States and their unique life experiences, traditions, and cultures.

Message from Wellington's Village Manager

Wellington's Village Manager, Jim Barnes, highlights the significance of celebrating the heritage and vital contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to the American Story. 

Events & Exhibits

A Showcase of Asian Culture and Poetry Reading
Tuesday, May 25, 2 PM 
Virtual Activity through Palm Beach County Library System 
Register to attend
Immerse yourself in the beautiful flow of poetic words of well-known poets of Asian and Pacific Islander origins accompanied by oriental cultural elements and background music

Korean-English Bilingual Storytime
May 11th & 13th, 10 AM - 10:45 AM 
Mandel Public Library, West Palm Beach 
Let’s celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with Korean-English Bilingual Storytime. For families with children up to 5 years old. Join the Mandel Public Library Children’s Librarian Ms. Jin for music and movement, songs, rhymes, art, and of course, great books in Korean and English. One registration per family is required (not per child). For more information or to register, visit wpbcitylibrary.org or call 561-868-7703.

KidSpace Bookclub – “Front Desk”
May 14, 2 PM - 3:30 PM
Mandel Public Library, West Palm Beach 
In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, kids in grades 3-5 are invited to read and discuss Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature-winning book “Front Desk” by Kelly Yang. Yang’s own childhood experiences of life as a Chinese immigrant to America are woven into the unforgettably resilient character of Mia Tang. Registration is required and limited to 13 children. Registration begins Monday, April 18. For more information or to register, visit wpbcitylibrary.org or call 561-868-7703.

Celebrate Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month: A Showcase of Chinese Musical Instruments
May 26, 1:45 PM
Wellington Library 
Discover the history and immerse yourself in the folk melodies of Chinese traditional music. All ages. (60 min.) 
Preregister

For a complete list of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Activities, visit the Palm Beach County Library System's website

The Smithsonian American Art Museum's Chiura Obata: American Modern Exhibition

This exhibition features 150 paintings and personal effects by one of the most significant California-based artists and Japanese American cultural leaders of the twentieth century.

Ansel Adams's Photographs of Japanese-American Internment at Manzanar

In 1943, Ansel Adams, America's most well-known photographer, documented the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California and the Japanese-Americans interned there during World War II. For the first time, digital scans of both Adams's original negatives and his photographic prints appear side by side allowing viewers to see Adams's darkroom technique, in particular, how he cropped his prints.

Asian Pacific Americans: Going for Broke | Stories from the Veterans History Project

Asian Pacific Americans made lasting contributions to America's wartime efforts. Collected stories highlight their service from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq.

Smithsonian APA Presents "OUR STORIES" Presenting and Preserving Native Hawaiian & Pacific Islander Stories

The Our Stories Digital Storytelling Initiative is to support the dissemination and perpetuation of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Island cultures through the media arts.

The NISEI Soldier - Congressional Gold Metal Documentary

Honoring the Japanese American World War II soldiers who fought in the service of the United States

This documentary presents the extraordinary life stories of 12 Nisei soldiers who served in the US Armed Forces in World War II. While some had families in America’s concentration camps, all served with a highly uncommon and commendable sense of patriotism and honor. This is their American story.

American Story: Japanese American WWII Soldiers and the Congressional Gold Medal

Additional Information & Resources

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Site from the National Archives

The National Archives holds a wealth of material documenting the Asian and Pacific Islanders' experience, and highlights these resources online, in programs, and through traditional and social media.

Educational Resources for Teachers

Browse ready-to-use lesson plans, student activities, collection guides, and research aids. 

Educational Websites