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Asian Pacific American Heritage


Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, once Asian-Pacific Heritage Week, is a time to celebrate and pay tribute to the contributions of generations of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who have enriched and contributed to American history, society, and culture. Asian Pacific Heritage Week originated in a congressional bill in 1978 sponsored by the U.S. Representatives Frank Horton and Norman Y. Mineta and U.S. Senators Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga. Twelve years later, President George H.W. Bush signed an extension making the week-long celebration into a month-long celebration. May was chosen because the first Japanese immigrant arrived in the United States in May of 1843 and the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad, which used Chinese laborers, was held on May 10, 1869.

Norman Mineta

Norman Mineta

American politician Norman Mineta (born 1931), was the first Asian-American cabinet member; he served under both the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. Mineta, an American of Japanese descent, was forced into an internment camp during World War II, and as a member of Congress during the 1990s, he lobbied for the United States government to issue an official apology and financial restitution to families such as his. As Secretary of Transportation in the administration of George W. Bush, Mineta oversaw an agency of 100,000 employees and a $60 million budget amid heightened security concerns in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

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Taika Waititi

Taika Waititi

New Zealander Taika Waititi has done standup comedy and acting. He is also an artist. He has written and directed both independent films and Hollywood blockbusters. In 2017 he drew acclaim for directing the box-office hit Thor: Ragnarok. That same year, he was named New Zealander of the Year.

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Dwayne Johnson

Dwayne Johnson

Dwayne Johnson, also known as The Rock, was the youngest champion in World Wrestling Federation (WWF) history. Johnson's exotic looks--and impressive physique--helped make him one of the top-earning personalities in his field throughout the 1990s and 2000s. His 2000 autobiography, The Rock Says...: The Most Electrifying Man in Sports-Entertainment, spent five months on the New York Times best-seller list, and the following year Johnson made his feature-film debut in The Mummy Returns. Since then Johnson has made a name for himself outside the wrestling ring with action films such as The Scorpion King (2002), G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013), and several installments of the Fast & the Furious franchise; children's films such as Tooth Fairy (2010) and Moana (2016), and even comedies such as The Other Guys (2010), Pain & Gain (2013), and Baywatch (2017). In 2011 Johnson returned to the ring as The Rock and routinely appeared in the wrestling ring over the next decade. In 2015 he starred in his first ever television series, Ballers, a sports comedy that saw its fifth season premiere in 2019.

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Yo-Yo Ma

Yo-Yo Ma

Winner more than 17 Grammy Awards, cellist Yo-Yo Ma possesses astounding technical brilliance and an awe-inspiring artistic sensibility. He virtually defined the standard for future cellists, and during his prolific career recorded more than 50 albums, between 1983 and 2000. Ma never hesitated to explore fresh musical terrain and the music of other cultures, and often explored the musical forms outside of the Western classical tradition. Ma immersed himself in projects as diverse as native Chinese music and it's distinctive instruments, the music of the Kalahari bush people in Africa, and tango music. Ma became one of the most sought-after cellists of his time, appearing with eminent conductors and orchestras throughout the world. He also gained a deserved reputation as an ambassador for classical music and its vital role in society. Ma was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 for his contributions to classical music.

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Maya Lin

Maya Lin

Once referred to as the "black gash of shame," according to Time's Jonathan Coleman, the memorial commemorating the nearly 60,000 American veterans who died in the Vietnam War has become the most popular landmark in Washington, D.C., attracting millions of visitors to its black granite walls to touch the carved names of the dead men and women who served during the 1960s and 1970s in America's most controversial military action. Maya Lin, the creator of this monument, was at first harshly criticized for her design, which many charged was unsentimental, degrading, even ugly; Lin herself was attacked on racial grounds, many vets believing that her heritage as a Chinese American made her an unacceptable memorialist. Since its 1982 unveiling, however, the massive monument has come to symbolize America's willingness to "not only finally...confront the outcome of the Viet Nam War but also to begin the long process of healing," wrote Coleman, who added that the memorial "made it possible for the country to come together and honor those who had served--those who had died and those who had come home to anything but a hero's welcome."

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Amy Tan

Amy Tan

Amy Tan first gained acclaim in 1989 for The Joy Luck Club, a beautifully spun tale of generational and cultural differences in Asian American families focusing on mother-daughter relationships. Though her novels eloquently convey elements of the rich Chinese culture, they have universal appeal due to their insightful treatment, human emotions, and themes common to everyone: loss and hope, family ties and reconciliation, failure and success. The tales in her books are told from the points of view of a number of the characters, lending a more personal appeal. She has remained a popular writer with works such as The Hundred Secret Senses (1995), Saving Fish From Drowning (2006), and The Valley of Amazement (2013). In 2017, Tan released her memoir Where the Past Begins: A Writer's Memoir.

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Jerry Yang

Jerry Yang

Jerry Yang teamed with fellow Stanford student David Filo to make the emerging World Wide Web a place that could be navigated. What started out as a part-time project mostly for their own benefit turned into Yahoo! Inc., one of the world's most used search engines for the Web, complete with personalized features for shopping, searching, connecting, and using the Internet.

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Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu

Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu

Among the team of experimental physicists who developed the first atomic bomb for the U.S. government during World War II, Chien-Shiung Wu (1912-1997) spent 37 years as a leading researcher at Columbia University. She was noted for her meticulous experimental work in studying radioactive interactions. Her most famous experiment overturned what long had been considered a fundamental law of nature, the principle of conservation of parity.

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Dalip Singh Saund

Dalip Singh Saund

The Indian American politician Dalip Singh Saund (1899-1973) was the first Asian American elected to the U.S. Congress.

An article on the IMDiversity Web site quoted Don Nakanishi, head of the Asian American Studies Center at the University of California at Los Angeles, as calling Saund "the unsung pioneer of Asian American electoral politics." His life story encompassed financial ups and downs, struggles against discrimination, and an unwavering devotion to the American ideals of freedom and equality that he had read about as a child in India--and to the universal ideals of human dignity that motivated his early activism on behalf of Indian independence and of his fellow Indian Americans. "My guideposts were two of the most beloved men in history, Abraham Lincoln and Mahatma Gandhi," Saund wrote in his autobiography, Congressman from India.

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Dr. David Ho

Dr. David Ho

When Time magazine's 1996 Man of the Year announced that AIDS could be reversed, his bold pronouncements became fodder for sudden, intense publicity and controversy. If Dr. David Ho's treatment works, it might be the first time ever that doctors have found tools to eradicate a viral infection that has already entered the body. Ho's techniques, reported Christine Gorman in Time, "provided the first concrete evidence that HIV is not insurmountable," and promised to end "15 years of horror, denial and disappointment" in efforts to combat AIDS. Ho and his team of researchers, said Gorman "fundamentally changed the way scientists looked at the AIDS virus."

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Haing S. Ngor

Haing S. Ngor

A survivor of the reign of terror of the Khmer Rouge in his native Cambodia, Haing S. Ngor (1940-1996) became known for his role in the 1984 film The Killing Fields, which told of atrocities in Cambodia. Although a physician, not an actor, he won the Academy Award for best supporting actor for the film. Until his tragic death, Ngor was a human rights activist, using his fame and income to help refugees and to tell the story of the holocaust experienced by his people.

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Joyce Chen

Joyce Chen

“good grades and joyous disposition.” Her father, Liao Hsin-shih, was a railroad administrator and city executive. Chen referred to her mother as Mrs. Hsin-shih Liao. Her grandfather and his brothers held high-ranking positions in the Chin Dynasty. Despite being born into a well-to-do family, Chen was taught culinary skills “so I wouldn’t eat raw rice in case I couldn’t afford a family cook.” When she was sixteen years old her family moved to Shanghai, where in 1942 she married Thomas Chen (Chen Da Zhong). The couple had three children: two were born in Shanghai, and the third was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where the family settled after fleeing China in 1949 just before the Communist revolution.

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Kalpana Chawla

Kalpana Chawla

Her family's legacy was one of triumph over tragedy, and for Kalpana Chawla, the dream of adding to her family's legacy materialized when she went became the first Indian woman to go up in space in 1997. On February 1, 2003, as a member of the ill-fated Columbia shuttle crew, Chawla would be honored for a life she lived too briefly--but during which she realized spectacular achievements against great odds.

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Patsy Matsu Takemoto Mink

Patsy Matsu Takemoto Mink

While representing Hawaii for nearly 20 years in Congress, Representative Patsy Takemoto Mink (born 1927) made great strides toward peace, women's rights, civil rights, equality and justice.

On January 3, 1965, Patsy Takemoto Mink was the first Japanese-American woman and the first woman of color to be elected to the United States Congress. Breaking new ground for women and ethnic groups, though, was nothing new for her. The road to Congress was paved with many firsts, such as being elected the first female class president in her high school and being the first Japanese-American woman to practice law in Hawaii. Mink's dedication to helping others has resulted in legislative reforms in health care, education, women's rights, civil rights, conservation, employment and environmental affairs.

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Philip Vera Cruz

Philip Vera Cruz

Phillip Villamin Vera Cruz was a longtime leader of the movement, begun in the 1960s, to unionize the nation's farmworkers, especially the immigrant, itinerant workers who do much of the back-breaking, extremely low-paying work on the majority of America's large non-grain farms. Vera Cruz was a leader of the successful Filipino-led sitdown strike in the vineyards of Coachella, California, in 1965. It was this galvanizing event that led to the creation of the United Farmworkers of America.

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Yuji Ichioka

Yuji Ichioka

Born June 23, 1936, in San Francisco, CA; died of cancer September 1, 2002, in Los Angeles, CA. Historian, educator, and author. Ichioka is credited with coining the term "Asian American, " and he worked to bring Asian immigrants of all nationalities together in the United States and foster an understanding of Asian-American history. He was a graduate of the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), where he earned his B.A. in 1962, going on to earn a master's degree from the University of California at Berkeley in 1968 and also doing graduate work at Columbia University.

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Jeremy Lin

Jeremy Lin

Jeremy Lin is an American professional basketball player who plays as a point guard for the Beijing Ducks. After failing to be drafted out of college, he mostly sat on the bench with the New York Knicks before leading the team to victory against the New Jersey Nets in 2012. The sudden success made Lin a star, and after several more months of play with the Knicks, he was signed as a point guard with the Houston Rockets. After two seasons with the Rockets, Lin was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2014 and then the Charlotte Hornets in 2015. After leaving Charlotte the following year, Lin spent time playing for the Brooklyn Nets and Atlanta Hawks before eventually signing with the Toronto Raptors and winning an National Basketball Association (NBA) title with the team in 2019. Lin subsequently put his NBA career on hold, signing a contract to play for the Chinese Basketball Association's (CBA) Beijing Ducks in August of 2019.

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Daniel Inouye

Daniel Inouye

Daniel Ken Inouye was a senior in high school and contemplating a career in medicine when the United States entered World War II following the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. A native of Hawaii, he was a nisei, the child of a Japanese immigrant to the islands. His father, Hyotaro Inouye, eked out a living as a clerk to provide for his wife, Kame Imanaga (herself a nisei), and the four Inouye children. They lived in one of Honolulu's worst slums, but as their oldest son later wrote in his autobiography, "I was too young to realize how underprivileged I was, and foolishly I enjoyed every moment of my childhood. There was always enough to eat in our house--although sometimes barely--but even more important, there was a conviction that opportunity awaited those who had the heart and strength to pursue it."

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Lisa Ling

Lisa Ling

Lisa Ling is an American television journalist. Since September of 2014, Ling has been the host of This Is Life with Lisa Ling on CNN. She previously served as the host of Our America with Lisa Ling, and National Geographic Explorer and as cohost of The View.

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Vera Wang

Vera Wang

Energetic and creative fashion guru Vera Wang became known as the designer to the stars in the 1990s with her trademark up-to-date wedding dresses, in addition to sleek evening gowns and elegant figure skating costumes. Using sheer materials and emphasizing minimalist styles, she has amassed a legion of famous fans from framed actresses and ice skaters who have made Wang a household name. Wang's creations are not just for the elite, however; she has a ready-to-wear line of bridal and evening dresses that can be found at stores across the nation. And in 2006, Wang became even more accessible to the masses with the announced launch of the Simply Vera line at Kohl's department stores. Also in 2011, Wang launched White by Vera Wang, a line of affordable wedding gowns sold at David's Bridal. A former almost-Olympic figure skater herself, Wang used her extensive experience as a fashion editor at Vogue and her stint designing for Ralph Lauren to launch her own lines. Her incentive for starting with bridal wear stemmed from her own frustration at not being able to find a suitable dress for her own 1989 wedding. "They were over-the-top and ornate and looked like wedding cakes," Wang told Jane Sharp in Biography. "I wanted something more elegant and subdued, but there wasn't anything. I realized the desire to fill that niche."

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B.D. Wong

B.D. Wong

Only twenty-something when he won theater's highest accolade--a Tony Award as best featured actor in 1988 for his performance in M. Butterfly, B. D. Wong could have rested on his many laurels. He is the first Asian American actor to receive awards from Actors' Equity, Theatre World, Outer Critics Circle, and Drama Desk--in addition to his Tony. But Wong is not the kind of person to focus on his own career without regard for his community. B.D. Wong has become a well-known name among Asian Americans for his dedication to fair portrayals of Asians as much as for his famed acting ability.

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Lana Condor

Lana Condor

Lana Condor is an American actress known for her roles in films such as X-Men: Apocalypse and To All the Boys I've Loved Before. Condor has also appeared in the films Patriot Day (2016) and Summer Night (2018). Condor was cast in the James Cameron-penned sci-fi/action film Alita: Battle Angel, scheduled for release in 2019. She also signed on to costar in the SyFy channel original series Deadly Class, set to premiere in 2019.

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Tyga

Tyga

Tyga is an American rapper and hip-hop artist who came to prominence in 2007, when, as a teenager, he performed at the MTV Video Music Awards. Known for his mixture of invective, humor, and at times disparagement of women, the rapper has produced several studio albums, including his 2008 debut No Introduction, Careless World: Rise of the Last King (2012), and Hotel California (2013).

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Ocean Vuong

Ocean Vuong

Ocean Vuong is a Vietnamese American writer whose debut novel, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, was showered with unreservedly approving accolades in 2019. A few months after its publication, he won a prestigious "genius grant" in the amount of $625,000 from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. One of Vuong's early champions was Ben Lerner, author of another 2019 standout novel The Topeka School and Vuong's undergraduate writing teacher at Brooklyn College. "It was unclear if Ocean was aware of the immensity of his talent," Lerner told New York Times writer Kevin Nguyen, "but everybody around him was." Vuong works as an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He also travels to give lectures at other institutions.

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M. Night Shyamalan

M. Night Shyamalan

A Hollywood auteur who directs as well as writes major motion pictures, M. Night Shyamalan released one of the top-grossing films of all time, The Sixth Sense, in 1999. The film starred Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment as a child psychologist and a boy, respectively, coming to grips with death. The film combined strong writing and solid directing with outstanding performances to create one of that year's top-grossing films, second only to Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. The Sixth Sense, directed by Shyamalan when he was 28 years old, grossed more than $700 million. It was nominated for six Academy Awards, including best director, best screenplay, and best picture. Shyamalan continued his directorial pursuits with a number of mystery oriented films over the years, including Signs (2002), The Village (2004), and The Happening (2008). Shyamalan began filming his next project The Visit in 2014. The movie was set for a 2015 release. He also transitioned into TV directing with the mystery series Wayward Pines, scheduled to air in 2015.

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As we take time to honor these Americans, we should also stop and recognize the current challenges that Asian and Pacific Americans are facing. the violence and hatred that has been directed at Asian Pacific Americans in recent days and months. The rash of attacks, hate speech, and discriminatory actions happening across the country, based on false narratives about the origins of COVID-19, are an affront to our community’s values and the civil rights that every Asian Pacific American holds. The Prince George’s County Memorial Library System (PGCMLS) community fervently condemns these actions and stands in solidarity with our Asian Pacific American relatives, neighbors, friends, and colleagues. We grieve for the lives lost and forever impacted by this senseless violence.

Stop Asian Hate

Events

Mon, May 10, 7:00pm - 8:00pm
Virtual Branch - West Area Virtual Events

Tue, May 11, 7:00pm - 8:00pm
Virtual

Thu, May 13, 7:00pm - 8:00pm
Virtual

Mon, May 17, 10:00am - 10:30am
Virtual

Tue, May 18, 7:00pm - 8:30pm
Virtual Branch - North Area Virtual Events

Wed, May 19, 10:00am - 10:30am
Virtual

Wed, May 19, 4:00pm - 5:00pm
Virtual

Fri, May 21, 3:00pm - 4:00pm
Virtual

Mon, May 24, 10:30am - 11:00am
Virtual

Mon, May 24, 7:00pm - 8:00pm
Virtual

Videos

Celebrating Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month 2020

This Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month we honor those who have pioneered the way. While we recognize the Asian American groundbreakers and game changers, we also recognize those who support diversity and inclusion supporting all cultures, including AAPIs. This AAPI Heritage Month is different than many others as we experience a world wide pandemic affecting the AAPI community in unfortunate ways. Let's continue working towards progress in uniting our nation. Happy Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

Japanese American Internment (with Captions)

Teachable Moments are short films that provide a quick overview of important topics and events from the Roosevelt Era. Created by the FDR Library's Education staff with the support of the Pare Lorenz Center, they are designed to assist primary and secondary school students.

The Making of Asian America: A History

In the past fifty years, Asian Americans have helped change the face of America and are now the fastest growing group in the United States. But as award-winning historian Erika Lee reminds us, Asian Americans also have deep roots in the country. The Making of Asian America tells the little-known history of Asian Americans and their role in American life, from the arrival of the first Asians in the Americas to the present-day. A book signing will follow the program.

Oh, the Stories They Tell: Chinese Exclusion Acts Case Files at the National Archives (2017 May 10)

Although the search for a Chinese Exclusion Act case file may be difficult and challenging, the rewards can be great as these files may contain a treasure trove of information for the family and social historian. Presented by the National Archives at Seattle Director Susan Karren in recognition of the Chinese Exclusion Act’s 135th anniversary.

We Need To Talk About Anti-Asian Hate

We need to talk about the rise of anti-Asian hate and attacks. Join Eugene for an in-depth conversation about the complex, often untold story of the Asian American community, the unique struggles they face, and find out how you can help #StopAsianHate​.

What Pacific Islanders Want You To Know

"I had to teach myself about myself"

Asian Pacific American Heritage Timeline

1

1587

The first Filipinos in America landed in Morro Bay, California.


1763

Filipino sailors travel across the Gulf into Louisiana’s bayou country and settle there. These “Louisiana Manila men”are the oldest continuous Asian American settler community in North America.

2

3

1865

Central Pacific Railroad Company hires first of 12,000 Chinese workers.


1869

First Transcontinental Railroad.

4

5

1869

First Japanese settlers arrive on U.S. mainland, in California.


1870

Naturalization Act of 1870 restricts naturalized citizenship to Whites and Blacks.

6

7

1878

California Circuit Court rules that “Mongolians” are not eligible for naturalization.


1879

California’s Second Constitution prohibits the employment of Chinese.

8

9

1882

Chinese Exclusion Act suspends immigration of Chinese laborers for 10 years.


1885

First recorded Korean immigrants.

10

11

1886

In Yick Wo v. Hopkins, Supreme Court rules that law with unequal impact on different groups is discriminatory.


1887

Constitution of the Hawaiian Kingdom: a minority of subjects of the Hawaiian Kingdom and foreign nationals, which included citizens of the United States, met in a mass meeting to organize a takeover of the political rights of the native population in the Kingdom.

12

13

1893

United States invasion and overthrow of Queen Liliʻuokalani and the Hawaiian Kingdom.


1898

United States occupies Guam after the Spanish-American War and the Treaty of Paris of 1898.

14

15

1899

United States annexed eastern Samoa, and Germany annexed the western part of the islands.


1923

In United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind, Supreme Court rules that Asian Indians cannot be naturalized.

16

17

1924

Immigration Act of 1924 effectively prohibits immigration of all Asians.


1942

Executive Order 9066 results in 120,000 Japanese Americans being sent to internment camps.

18

19

1943

Congress repeals Chinese Exclusion Act and grants naturalization rights.


1946

Luce-Celler Act permits Filipinos and Indians to immigrate and grants them naturalization rights.

20

21

1946

Wing Ong is first Asian American elected to state office (Arizona).


1949

U.S. grants 5,000 educated Chinese refugee status after Communist takeover of China.

22

23

1950

Guam Organic Act of 1950 established Guam as an unincorporated organized territory of the United States


1956

Dalip Singh Saund of California becomes first Indian American in Congress.

24

25

1959

Hiram Fong of Hawaii becomes first Chinese American in Senate.


1959

Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii becomes first Japanese American in Congress.

26

27

1964

Patsy Takemoto Mink of Hawaii becomes first nonwhite woman in Congress.


1965

Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 eliminates national-origins quota system.

28

29

1975

Vietnam war ends, leading to large migration of Southeast Asians.


1979

First Asian/Pacific American heritage Week is celebrated.

30

31

1985

Ellison Onizuka becomes first Asian American astronaut in space.


1986

Gerald Tsai of American Can becomes first Asian American CEO of Fortune 500 company.

32

33

1988

Civil Liberties Act of 1988 pays surviving Japanese American internees $20,000 each.


1989

Amerasian Homecoming Act allows children born to Vietnamese mothers and U.S. servicemen to immigrate.

34

35

1992

Jay Kim of California becomes first Korean American in Congress.


1997

Gary Locke of Washington becomes first Asian American governor of mainland state.

36

37

1999

Andrea Jung of Avon becomes first nonwhite woman CEO of a Fortune 500 company.


2000

Secretary of Commerce Norman Mineta becomes first Asian American Cabinet member.

38

39

2001

Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao becomes first woman Asian American Cabinet member.


2001

Dr. Wen Ho Lee, a U.S. citizen, is charged with spying for China; a federal judge later apologizes to Lee for being “led astray” by the Department of Justice.

40

41

2007

Bobby Jindal of Louisiana becomes first Indian American governor.


2009

President Barack Obama appoints three Asian Americans to Cabinet.

42

43

2010

Apolo Anton Ohno becomes most decorated American Winter Olympian, with eight medals.


2010

Nikki Haley of South Carolina becomes first woman Indian American governor.

44

45

2013

Kevin Tsujihara of Warner Bros. becomes first nonwhite CEO of a major Hollywood studio.


2014

First Asian American U.S. Marine Officer, Maj. Kurt Chew-Een Lee, dies at the age of 88.

46

Online Exhibits

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Event Highlights
Virtual Asian American Art Museum
Chinese Historical Society of America
A Day in the Queer Life of Asian Pacific America
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Art Intersections: Asian-Latino Pop-Up Museum
Asian Art Museum: Museum from Home
Digital Exhibits from the Smithsonian
The National Archives Celebrates Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Online Resources

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