AAPI Heritage Month highlights the culture, history, and achievements of Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities.
Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month highlights the culture, history, and achievements of the AAPI community in the United States.
Some people online are wondering why is AAPI Heritage Month celebrated in May. VERIFY is breaking history leading up to this month’s selection for the designation.
WHAT WE FIND
Why is AAPI Heritage Month celebrated in May?
AAPI stands for Asian American and Pacific Islander, a distinction that represents people whose ancestors and cultures come from Asia and the Pacific Islands of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia.
In 1992, Congress passed the law to designate May of each year as AAPI Heritage Month. Act of Congress to recognize that “Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have made significant contributions to the development of the arts, sciences, government, military, commerce, and education in the United States.”
AAPI Month is celebrated in May to commemorate two historic moments: the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to the United States on May 7, 1843, and the contribution of Chinese workers to the Railways. transcontinental has been completed on May 10, 1869.
Who was the first Japanese immigrant in the United States?
The first Japanese citizen to set foot on American soil was a 14-year-old fisherman named Manjiro, National Foundation for the Humanities (NEH) says.
During a fishing trip in 1841, Manjiro’s crew was caught in a violent storm and their ship ended up being washed up on an island 300 miles from their Japanese coastal village. Five months later, an American whaling ship from Massachusetts rescued them, according to NEH.
William Whitfield, the captain of the American ship, adopted Manjiro and renamed him John Mung. Whitfield brought Manjiro back to America on May 7, 1843. He lived in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, Whitfield’s hometown, where he studied English and navigation.
Manjiro returned to Japan a decade later and was eventually elevated to samurai status. The NEH said he continues to act “behind the scenes as a political messenger between Japan and the West”.
In the 1860s, Japanese immigrants began arriving in the Hawaiian Islands, which were not yet part of the United States, to work in the sugar cane fields. Many of these immigrants moved to the continental United States, settling in California, Oregon, and Washington to work primarily as farmers and fishermen. According to the National Museum of American History.
Library of Congress says More than 400,000 people emigrated from Japan to the United States and its territories between 1886 and 1911, and substantial emigration continued for at least a decade thereafter.
How did Chinese workers contribute to the construction of the Transcontinental Railway?
The construction of the Transcontinental Railway relied on the labor of migrant workers. It was the first continuous rail line from California to the East Coast.
According to the New American Economic Research FoundationThe railroad cut travel time between New York and San Francisco from six months to less than a week.
Brittany Erkeneff, deputy country director for the Association of Asian Pacific American Community Affairs (APAPA), said that although Chinese workers were an integral part of the route’s completion iron, but they are often not highlighted in its history.
Chinese migrant workers have done about 90% of the construction work in the western part of the railway, According to the National Museum of American History.
In the 1800s, Chinese workers were considered racially inferior to white workers in America. According to the National Museum of American History, employers have used this stereotype to justify underpaying Chinese workers and pushing them into unwanted jobs.
The National Park Service (NPS) said Chinese workers amounted to more than 11,000 by the end of the rail project, most of which were employed by the Central Pacific Railroad in Sacramento, California.
Many Chinese workers died during the construction of the railway, although the total number of deaths and injuries is not recorded. According to NPS, at least 100 Central Pacific workers, most of them Chinese, died in an avalanche while constructing through the Sierra Nevada mountains.