AAPI Heritage Month : Introduction—The Asian Diaspora

Updated: May 25, 2021

Pittsford Central PTSA Celebrates

Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month

May Is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) peoples’ contributions have had substantial and important impact in the United States. Pittsford Central PTSA celebrates our Asian and Pacific Islander parent community with representation all month long.


OUR PROGRAM - Celebrating AAPI Heritage

Here you will find interviews, historical profiles, and resources providing snapshots of the culture and the legacy of the Asian Diaspora and life in America.

Please return to this site over the upcoming weeks to find out more and share in this important topic.


PTSA DEI invites parents, educators, and students to attend our upcoming PTSA DEI Event on East Asian American Diversity. Join in a panel discussion of East Asian culture, presented and hosted by three professors across disciplines who know the respective language, culture, and both formal and informal institutions of three countries in East Asia.


Over 24 Million Americans (7.3% of US population) were recorded as AAPI in the census, however, ⅔ of the population identify with their specific ethnicity or country of origin.

Census 2018 Population Image (https://www.fapac.org/AAPI-Resources)

Thirteen percent (13%) of the Pittsford School student population (19-20 Enrollment nysed.gov) is classified as Asian or Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander.


Week 1 : Introduction—The Asian Diaspora

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are a large culturally and linguistically Diverse group and an integral part of the American cultural mosaic. The APPI Community consists of approximately 50 ethnic groups speaking over 100 languages. A person with origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, South Asia, or the Pacific Islands. This area includes for example: China, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, the Philippines and Samoa, and In South Asia includes India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan. Over 13 Million US residents were born in Asia. Asian is a racial category that was based on exclusionary laws in the United States- it is important to use what identity terms individuals prefer.

The Continent of Asia and Polynesia that comprise is made up of 48 Countries.


SMITHSONIAN AAPI EVENTS & RESOURCES is an innovative, community-centered museum experiences throughout the United States and beyond.

  • STANDING TOGETHER For AAPI Heritage Month: Calendar of activities and a message from Interim Director Theodore S. Gonzalves, Ph.D.

  • HERITAGE iRL Engaging Asian American heritage across a range of media and communities

  • WE ARE NOT A STEREOTYPE An educational video series breaking down Asian Pacific American bias

  • LEARNING TOGETHER Connecting educators with Asian American and Pacific Islander voices, stories, and community-created resources.

  • OUR STORIES Presenting and Preserving Native Hawaiian & Pacific Islander Stories

  • KEYSTONE INITIATIVE Building an APA Gallery and a Culture of Community


Historical Information

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month is a time for celebration, learning, and reflection on the rich contributions that AAPI people have and continue to make in our country. AAPIs have helped to build a strong and vibrant America. They have started businesses and generated jobs including founding some of our Nation’s most successful and innovative enterprises. They have made important contributions including but not limited to science, technology, culture, the arts, business, law, medicine, education, politics, and economics. Their legacies and shared accomplishments are inspirational, significant, and a celebrated part of the American experience.

While we are celebrating it is also important to acknowledge the injustices that have occurred in American history. These include but are not limited to: Denying citizenship based on race, denying entry (Chinese Exclusion act) and even forced removal into Japanese internment camps (Executive Order 9066, which imprisoned American citizens because of their ethnicity).

Some additional specific examples of notable cases in history and relating to AAPI cultures:

Asian American History Timeline

Gold Rush Lures New Wave of Immigrants

1849: Following the discovery of gold in California, Chinese miners head to California seeking riches, with 25,000 arriving by 1851, according to the Library of Congress. With uncertain work and hostile locals, not to mention a language barrier, many Chinese laborers (including more than 10,000 with the Central Pacific Railroad alone) take dangerous work, for little pay, building the transcontinental railroad, which is completed on May 10, 1869.

Page Act, Chinese Exclusion Act Restrict Immigration

March 3, 1875: The Page Act of 1875 is enacted, prohibiting the recruitment of laborers from “China, Japan or any Oriental country” who were not brought to the United States of their own will or who were brought for “lewd and immoral purposes.” The law explicitly bars “the importation of women for the purposes of prostitution.” The act, based on stereotypes and scapegoating, is enforced by invasive and humiliating interrogations at the Angel Island Immigration Station outside San Francisco. It effectively blocks Chinese women from entering the country and stifles the ability of Chinese American men to start families in America.

May 6, 1882: Facing hostile, and often violent treatment from locals, Chinese immigrants are targeted by Congress with the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act, signed into law by President Chester Arthur. The act bans Chinese workers from entering the country and excludes Chinese immigrants from American citizenship. Every 10 years, Congress extends its provision until 1943, when World War II labor shortage pressure and increased anti-Japanese sentiment leads to its demise and Chinese immigrants are allowed to become naturalized citizens.

March 3, 1885: In the case Tape v. Hurley, California's Supreme Court rules that the state entitles "all children" access to public education. The case centers on Mamie Tape, then 8, an American-born daughter of Chinese immigrants whose family sued the San Francisco Board of Education for denying her admission because of her race.

White Coal Miners Target Chinese Workers

September 2, 1885: Angered that they’re taking away “white” jobs, white coal miners attack Chinese laborers in the Wyoming territory during what comes to be known as the Rock Springs Massacre. Twenty-eight Chinese are killed, with 15 more injured by the mob, which also looted and set fire to all of the homes in the area’s Chinatown. Federal troops are brought in to return Chinese miners, who had fled, to Rock Springs, and Congress eventually agrees to compensate the workers for their losses.

May 27-28, 1887: Seven white horse thieves ambush a group of Chinese miners who had set up camp along the Snake River in Oregon, murdering all 34 men and mutilating their bodies before dumping them in the river. Three members of the gang stand trial in the Hells Canyon Massacre, with one testifying for the state, and all are found not guilty by an all-white jury.

March 28, 1898: United States v. Wong Kim Ark This Supreme Court case established the precedent that any person born in the United States is a citizen by birth (known as birth-right citizenship).

April 15, 1912: Six Chinese men survive the Titanic crash, but are not allowed to enter the US due to the exclusion act. Titanic: Searching for the 'missing' Chinese survivors

The Alien Land Act of 1913: The ability to possess and own land is one of the fundamental ways a human being is able to climb the socioeconomic ladder and create a nurturing stable environment for the family. Ownership in the legal system is the state or fact of exclusive rights and control over property, which may be an object, real estate, or intellectual property. The California Alien Land Law (19 May 1913) or Webb-Haney Act summarily state all aliens not eligible for citizenship cannot own nor possess land, property, etc. Due to the wording, the Act includes white European in ownership and possession but not others of different ethnicity.

February 5, 1917: Congress passes the Immigration Act of 1917, which includes an "Asiatic Barred Zone," banning Chinese, Asian Indians, Burmese, Thai, Maylays and others. Japan is not on the list of those excluded, as prohibitions against immigrants from that country are already in place, nor is the Philippines, as it is a U.S. territory.

Japanese Internment

December 7, 1941: The Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor. Two months later, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, fearing Japanese immigrants or those with Japanese ancestry had taken part in planning the attack, issues an executive order that forces more than 120,000 Japanese Americans living on the West Coast into internment camps. According to the National Archives, approximately 70,000 of those targeted are U.S. citizens, and no charges are made against any of them. Most lose their homes, businesses and belongings, and are held until the war ends. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signs a law apologizing for the civil liberty injustice with the order to pay $20,000 to each person interned.

January 19, 1948: Supreme court decision in Oyama v. California. In 1945, Fred and Kajiro Oyama initiated a court case against the California Alien Land Law when California tried to take their legally-owned land. Their victory was a defining moment in the fight to remove legal barriers preventing Japanese-Americans from owning land, and in developing the Supreme Court’s approach for racial and civil rights cases during the 1950s and 60s.

Asian-American Firsts in Congress

January 3, 1957: Dalip Saund of California is sworn in as a U.S. Representative, becoming the first Asian-American, first Indian American and first Sikh to serve in Congress. An immigrant from India, he became an American citizen in 1949, eventually earning a Ph.D. and being elected as a judge before serving three terms in the House.

According to the U.S. House of Representatives History, Art & Archives, he was vocal on issues such as communism and civil rights, including desegregation. “The problem of man’s injustice to man is a world problem," he said in response to the case in Little Rock, Arkansas. "Let one who is innocent and pure throw the first stone.”

August 24, 1959: Born in Honolulu the son of poor Chinese immigrants, Hiram L. Fong is sworn in as Hawaii's first U.S. Senator, becoming the first Asian American elected to the chamber. The only Republican senator ever elected from the state, he defended President Richard Nixon's Vietnam policies, and, according to the U.S. House of Representatives History, Art & Archives, saw himself as an Asian American spokesman. “I feel sometimes they think I am their senator,” he once said. “I try to interpret America to them and to interpret them to America.”

January 4, 1965: U.S. Representative Patsy T. Mink of Hawaii is sworn in as the first Asian American woman, and first woman of color, to serve in Congress. A supporter of women’s and civil rights and an advocate for education, children and labor unions, Mink opposed the Vietnam War, supported Head Start and the Women's Educational Equity Act and was a co-author and sponsor of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, outlawing sex discrimination in any education program or activity receiving federal funding. She also co-founds the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus in 1994.

Advances in Labor Rights

September 8, 1965: Facing the threat of pay cuts and demanding improved working conditions, the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, made up mostly of Filipino farmworkers, begins the five-year-long Delano Grape strike in California that prompts a global grape boycott. Led by Filipino-American Larry Itliong, the workers are soon joined by Cesar Chavez and Latino workers, and the two unions ultimately join to form United Farm Workers.

October 3, 1965: President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Immigration and Nationality Act into law. Also known as the Hart-Celler Act, it puts an end to immigration policies based on ethnicity and race and quota systems, resulting in a wave of Asian immigrants who had been barred from entry.

August 19, 1973: Martial arts movie Enter the Dragon premieres, three weeks after its action star, Bruce Lee, dies from an allergic reaction to pain medication in Hong Kong. In his first starring role in a Hollywood film, the box office hit cements Lee, born in 1940 in San Francisco and raised in Hong Kong, as a film icon.

March 28, 1979: President Jimmy Carter proclaims a week in May is to be designated Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week, which would be continued by Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

In 1990, Bush broadens the observance to cover the month of May and, in 1992, Congress passes a law permanently designating May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month. May is chosen in honor of the first official Japanese immigrant's arrival in the U.S. on May 7, 1843, and because May 10, 1869, marks the completion of the transcontinental railroad.

June 23, 1982: Four days after being held down and beaten in the head with a baseball bat by two white autoworkers in Detroit, Vincent Chin dies. The Chinese American and his friends were confronted during his bachelor party by Ronald Ebens and his stepson, Michael Nitz, who, according to witnesses, blamed their unemployment on the rise of Japanese car imports. Ebens and Nitz, convicted of manslaughter in a plea deal, were sentenced to three years probation and a $3,000 fine with no jail time. The verdict—called “a license to kill for $3,000, provided you have a steady job or are a student and the victim is Chinese,'' according to Kin Yee, president of the Detroit Chinese Welfare Council—leads to protests and outrage in the Asian American community.

June 24, 1982: More than 20,000 garment workers, most of whom are female immigrants from China and Hong Kong, rally in New York’s Chinatown after labor union negotiations stall. A second rally is held the next month, with a one-day strike taking place July 15, the largest in the history of Chinatown that ends with employers accepting the union’s contract demands.

(This is the end of our timeline- it is not comprehensive, but shares many critical moments)


Time for a Deeper Dive? Here Are More History Resources to Explore:


The Pittsford Central PTSA DEI Committee seeks to celebrate ALL residents and truly value diversity and inclusion. We emphasize that our differences truly make us better. We know that it is essential to create welcoming schools and classrooms where differences in language, culture, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, unique abilities, etc., are viewed as assets rather than deficits. An awareness and acceptance of these differences are foundational to the success of all students.

As a small group of volunteers, we acknowledge we may be incomplete in our coverage of this topic. For that reason - we welcome you to contact us with suggestions and additions regarding any of this material, you may reach the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee via our feedback form. We can add more to our posts throughout the month and plan to build on this material in future years.


Pittsford Central PTSA, NYSPTA and National PTA Resources

Pittsford Central School District and Monroe County Resources


Indigenous Land Acknowledgement

We acknowledge the Seneca people as the traditional custodians of the land that we are on and for their enduring presence. We would also like to pay respects to Elders past and present of the Hodinöhsö:ni' Confederacy, and we extend that respect to any other indigenous people who are present with us today. We make this acknowledgment as a first step in fulfilling our responsibility to critically look at colonial histories and their present-day implications as we pay respect to the keepers of the land, and the land itself. We are aware that acknowledgment is not reparation, and land acknowledgment without active steps towards education, support of the Seneca Nation, and sincere efforts to undo colonial legacies means very little.