Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month

Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month was created in 1992 to pay tribute to the generations of Asians and Pacific Islanders who have enriched America’s history and are instrumental in its future success. The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.

General Information

The Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month Web site was developed by the Library of Congress and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Features include “How Asia Changed the Course of American Art,” “The Tsars and the East: Gifts from Turkey and Iran in The Moscow Kremlin,” “Global Sounds—Asia,” and the Veterans History Project. Visitors can also find information related exhibits and collections, images, and audio/video.

Library Programming

Houston (Tex.) Public Library hosted a third annual day-long celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage month, with special activities that included an Origami workshop, performances of Asian dances, and balloon art.

The University of Missouri Kansas City Library hosted a celebrated the month with a cultural event that included complimentary spring rolls, tea, and Asian coffee, an information session, and instrumental and vocal performances.

In honor of the month, the San Jose (Calif.) Public Library hosted a trio of exhibits: The Lives and Contributions of Pioneering Korean Americans; Pioneering the Valley: The Chinese American Legacy in Santa Clara Valley; and Chinese American Women’s Club of Santa Clara Valley.

The Foster City (Calif.) Library teamed with the Asian American Curriculum Project, the San Mateo Organization of Chinese Americans, and the San Mateo Japanese American Citizens League to host a day-long celebration of Asian-Pacific American heritage. Events included readings from authors Felicia Hoshino, Gene Luen Yang, and Oscar Peñaranda; entertainment by a drum group and dance troupe; a performance on traditional Chinese instruments; a calligraphy demonstration; origami and paper crafting; and and art exhibition by Wei M. Lew.

Students in the College of William and Mary’s Theater 340 “Asian Pacific American History in Theatre & Film” class created a series of events in honor of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. Programs included Kirpal Singh, director of the Center for Diversity at Singapore Management University, reading from his book Thinking Hats and Coloured Turbans: Creativity Across Cultures; “Swallow the Tempest,” an exhibit honoring Asian-Pacific Americans, was on display at Swem Library; performance artist Kristina Wong presented a master class about Asian Americans and the performing art as well as the presentation “Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: Mental Health in Asian America”; “Cultural Breakdown,” an Asian-American slam and solo performance recital, was presented by Abhay Ahluwali; noted Indian classical musician T.M. Krishna played a concert; and the Theater 340 class performed TEA, a full-length play by Velina Hasu Houston.

The Hennepin County (Minn.) Library hosted its fifth annual “Spice and Slice of Asia” program series. Events included “Legacies of War,” an exhibit and film presented with support from the Lao Assistance Center of Minnesota and a Washington, D. C., nonprofit organization also called Legacies of War; a discussion and demonstration of Chinese calligraphy by calligrapher Stephen Mao from the Chinese Heritage Foundation Friends; a Southeast Asian spoken word performance for teens grades 6 and up; and Hmong, Indian, Vietnamese, Burmese, Chinese, and Laotian storytelling.

Teaching Resources

Smithsonian Education offers a wide variety of resources, including Vietnamese America, Chinese American and Korean American lesson plans as well as teacher guides for Buddhism, Islamic art, and Hindu worship.

The Library of Congress has a number of links to educational resources from its partners, including NEH’s EDSITEment Asian-Pacific Heritage pages, NARA’s Teaching with Documents series, the National Gallery of Art’s “Teaching The Golden Age of Chinese Archaeology” and Teaching Edo Art in Japan,” and the National Park Service’s Asian Reflections on the American Landscape: Identifying Asian Heritage.

ReadWriteThink lists related classroom activities as well as lesson plans.

Other Resources

SITES, the Smithsonian Institution’ s traveling exhibition program, offers Sweet and Sour: Chinese Food from Chinatown to Main Street. This visually exciting, revealing look at the cuisine and cultural traditions brought to America by the earliest Chinese immigrants to America’s West coast, and the ensuing popularization of Chinese food all across the country, from tiny hamlets to major urban centers.

The New York Public Library has an extensive list of related children’s books.

ALA Graphics offers a poster and bookmark to help promote your events.