May: Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Dear BES Community, 

May is Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month.  It was designated as a month-long celebration by Congress in 1992. The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese people 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. Broadly, this month celebrates those with Native Hawaiian ancestry or people with heritage from the Asian continent and/or the Pacific islands of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. We recognize that there is a rich diversity of cultures under this umbrella, and that it is difficult to encapsulate the many different experiences and legacies. This is another opportunity to learn about and honor the long history of service and contributions in areas such as art, science, medicine, and politics. Often people with this heritage have had to fight against the stereotype of being thought of as not truly American. Gross past discrimination includes the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, incarceration of Japanese American citizens during World War II, and the targeting of Asian Americans after the tragedy of September 11th. Such discrimination still remains and it is important to learn about the myriad of contributions and the influence that Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islander Americans have on the history, culture and achievements of the United States. To highlight just a few of the role models in this community, we recognize:

Eric S. Yuan, founder of Zoom Hiran Fong, the first Asian-American U.S. SenatorJason Momoa, actorMarine Corps Captain Jaden J. Kim, who deployed multiple times as a pilot to Afghanistan and Iraq
Kamala Harris, the first Asian-American Vice President of the United States     

Learn more at: Read about Native Hawaiian Heritage & Culture at

Read about AsianA merican, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander American Heritage at

View the Smithsonian’s Asian Pacific American Center online at

Visit the National Museum of American History and National Portrait Gallery for exhibitions highlighting the stories of people of Asian or Pacific Islander descent