Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month
The month of May is was designated Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month in 1990 for two known historic facts. On May 7, 1843, the first known Japanese immigrants arrived in the United States. Sixteen years later, on May 10, 1869, the Transcontinental Railroad was completed in Promontory, Utah and joined with the golden spike. AAPI Heritage Month first honored the Chinese laborers who built the rails eastward from Sacramento earning 30-50% less than white workers, were given the most dangerous jobs, endured racism and abuse, and completed the historic human achievement of joining the Atlantic and Pacific coasts by rail.
Despite these relatively recent events, Asians have been arriving in North America for centuries. The first documented arrivals were of Filipinos in 1587 in what would become California. As early as 1635, Asian Indians landed at Jamestown. Two years after the U.S. declared its independence, Chinese arrived in the Kingdom of Hawaii, and Native Hawaiians arrived in what would become Oregon. Koreans began arriving in the U.S. in the late 19th century.
Just as Europeans explored and sailed west on the Atlantic, so too did Asians and Pacific Islanders explore and sail east across the expanse of the Pacific, though in smaller numbers. AAPI history is as deeply woven into the fabric of U.S. history as the histories of other racial and ethnic groups that immigrated here, who were brought here, or who are Native to this place we call America.
Throughout the month of May, the Human Relations Commission will share important events in history, and tell the stories of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders whose achievements have contributed to the advancement of American society.