Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month poster
Courtesy of Department of Defense Education Activity

Celebrated in May each year, Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month recognizes the challenges faced by Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Native Hawaiians and their vital contributions to the American story. The theme for this year is “Advancing Leaders Through Purpose-Driven Service.”

In 1978, the U.S. Congress recognized Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week. In 1990 Congress passed a law expanding the observance to a month for that year, and in 1992 Congress passed a law annually designating May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month. In 2009 President Barack Obama expanded the Asian/Pacific American commemoration to include Pacific Islanders and issued his proclamation in honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

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.

(Information courtesy of the Department of Defense Education Activity)


Asian population in the United States
Courtesy of the United States Census Bureau. Click to view larger image.

Visit these websites to learn more about the theme and history of the month as well as find facts and resources about the AAPI community.

U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity

Federal Asian Pacific American Council
This council selects the theme for the month and provides AAPI Heritage Month history, population data–like the image to the right–and other resources.
Celebrate the month with a collection of PBS video stories that explore the history, traditions and culture of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States.

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.Gov
Several national agencies, museums and departments join in paying tribute to the generations of Asian and Pacific Islanders who have enriched America’s history and are instrumental in its future success.

National Park Service Celebrates Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
There are countless stories and historical events connected to national parks and communities shared through National Park Service programs and partners.

Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center
The Center provides resources to help #StopAsianHate, a video series on Asian American heritage, resources for educators, arts education for classrooms, an education video series breaking down Asian Pacific American bias, and a digital storytelling initiative preserving Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander stories.

National Archives
This page includes research links, presidential proclamations, blog posts and articles, videos, images, and education resources.