Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

May is Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month. This month celebrates the United States’ Pacific Islanders and Asians. Asian/Pacific is a broad term that covers all of Asia and the Pacific islands of Melanesia. (New Guinea and New Caledonia. Vanuatu. Fiji and Solomon Islands), Micronesia. (Marianas. Guam. Wake Island. Palau. Marshall Islands. Kiribati. Nauru. Federated States of Micronesia. Polynesia. New Zealand, Hawaiian Islands. Rotuma. Midway Islands. Samoa. Tonga. Cook Islands.

As with many commemorative months, Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month was created by Congress. Rep. Frank Horton, a New York Representative, introduced House Joint Resolution 544, in 1977 to declare the first ten May days as Pacific/Asian American Heritage Week.

In the same year, Senator Daniel Inouye introduced Senate Joint Resolution 72. These resolutions failed to pass, so Rep. Horton introduced House Joint Resolution 1007 in June 1978. The resolution suggested that the President “proclaim a week which is to include both the seventh and tenth days of the month during the first ten Days of May 1979 as ‘Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week.

This joint resolution was adopted by the House, then the Senate. President Jimmy Carter signed it on October 5, 1978. It became Public Law 95-419 (PDF 158kb). This law amended the original text of the bill and directed President Jimmy Carter to issue a proclamation naming the “7-day period beginning May 4, 1979, as ‘Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week.”

The next decade saw presidents issue annual proclamations to celebrate Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week. This continued until 1990, when Congress passed Public Law 101-283, (PDF, 166kb), which made the observance a month starting in 1990. In 1992, Congress passed Public Law 102–450 (PDF 285kb), which each year designated May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month.

The month of May was chosen as a commemoration of the May 7th, 1843 arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to the United States and to celebrate the 10th anniversary of completion of the transcontinental railroad. Most of the track-layers were Chinese immigrants.

This site only shows a small selection of the digital holdings and physical materials related to Asian/Pacific heritage that are available at the Library of Congress and other participating organizations.

Executive and Legislative documentsThe Law Library of Congress has created guides for commemorative observations. This includes a complete inventory of the Public Laws and Presidential Proclamations, as well as congressional resolutions that relate to Asian American Heritage Month and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.


May 01 - 31 2023


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