Celebrating the Rich Legacy of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage

Heritage Months
1 May 2023
by Ancestry® Team

Asian Heritage Month is an annual celebration of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AANHPI) in the U.S. Throughout the month of May, AANHPI community members embrace their heritage with a plethora of events that include cultural festivals, government-sponsored seminars and workshops, and educational activities for school-age and college students. 

The History of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

In 1978, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution to honor and celebrate the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities throughout the first week of May on an annual basis. In 1992, Congress officially designated the entire month of May as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and it is now called Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. For school-age and college students, AANHPI Heritage Month provides opportunities to learn about their ancestors and explore their roots through educational activities in the classroom. 

In May, AANHPI Heritage Month events include special exhibits and art installments at renowned art museums such as the National Museum of Asian Art, business seminars, and annual festivals that celebrate Asian heritage and culture throughout the generations. 

AANHPI Heritage Month 2023 Celebration Theme

The theme for Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month 2023 is “Advancing Leaders Through Opportunity.” Since 2021 and through 2024, the Federal Asian Pacific American Council (FAPAC) has been focusing on a specific theme series that highlights the council’s efforts in advancing leaders within the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities in the US.

AANHPI Heritage Month celebrates and honors all Asian and Pacific American immigrants who came to the United States filled with hope and in search of new opportunities. The goal of the FAPAC, with this year’s installment in its series of advancing leaders, is to provide opportunities for professional advancement and help individuals reach their true potential. 

Asian Heritage Month
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Event, 2006

Key Facts About the Asian Population in the U.S.

Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders accounted for over 24 million people in the U. S. in 2021. The largest groups were Chinese, Indian, Filipino, Vietnamese, Korean, and Japanese.

Approximately 83 percent of all Asian Americans in the US are single-race and non-Hispanic. About 14 percent of the US Asian American population is multi-racial, and Chinese Americans are the largest Asian American population in the US at 24 percent. 

Asian Hispanics are the smallest group in the US Asian American population, and approximately 45 percent of US Asian Americans live in the Western US. 

Stories of Asian American Achievements

AANHPI Heritage Month also celebrates the life’s work of those in the Asian community. Asian and Pacific Islander Americans’ numerous achievements and societal contributions include the work of these people. Here’s a closer look into some notable Asian Americans in the US. 

Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu – Born in China in 1912, emigrated to the US in 1934 and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 1940 with a Ph.D. in Physics. She was part of the Manhattan Project team, a group of scientists working on the Atomic Bomb. In 1957, Dr. Wu was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics after conducting numerous experiments in atomic science. 

Yuri Kochiyama –  Japanese American civil rights advocate who fought for the rights of Asian Americans, African Americans, Latinx peoples, and Indigenous peoples. During World War II, Yuri Kochiyama spent two years in incarceration camps, which inspired her to become an activist. Kochiyama campaigned tirelessly for reparations for the treatment of Japanese Americans held by their own government during the war.. Her hard work paid off when President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act into law in 1988.  

Amanda Nguyen – Asian American activist and Harvard University Student. Born to Vietnamese refugees, Amanda is the founder of RISE, an advocacy group that helps victims of sexual assault. She was inspired to create RISE after experiencing her own sexual assault in 2013. The foundation has succeeded in helping pass over 25 state and federal laws regarding sexual assault, and Amanda was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2019. 

Discovering Your Asian and Pacific Islander Roots and Family History

Taking time to discover your Asian roots and learn about your family’s history can provide incredible insight into your heritage and the mark your ancestors left on the world. By taking a deeper look into your family’s past and your ancestors’ early origins, you can better understand the challenges past generations of Asian Americans faced when immigrating to the U.S. and establishing their roots. 

Searching public records such as birth certificates and census documents on Ancestry® is a great starting point, and you can look even further into your family’s past with DNA testing. AncestryDNA® tests can help you learn about the places your ancestors may have lived. 

Explore family history records on Ancestry with a free trial today.