Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month

May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. President Jimmy Carter signed Public Law 95-419 in 1978 to commemorate a week long celebration of Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week. In 1990, Congress passed Public Law 102-450 to make the entire month of May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month. Visit to learn more about those who enriched America's history; check out videos, exhibitions and more.


  • Bruno Mars was born in Hawaii and is well -known for several chart-topping songs including "Just the Way You Are," "Uptown Funk," and "That's What I Like."
  • Lou Diamond Phillips was born on a Subic Bay Naval Station in the Philippines. You might recognize him from films like Stand and DeliverLa Bamba and the series Longmire based on the books by Craig Johnson.
  • Yo-Yo Ma was born in Paris to Chinese parents and moved to New York when he was four. At nine he made his debut at Carnegie Call. He has over 50 music albums and won more than a dozen Grammy Awards.
  • Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee was born in Taiwan and later studied film at the University of Illinois and NYU. His famous films include Sense and Sensibility, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and Brokeback Mountain.
  • Pat Morita was born in Northern California and spent some of WWII in a Japanese internment camp. He appeared in Happy Days and Sandford and Son, but you probably know him best as Mr. Miyagi.
  • Japanese-American actor George Takei is probably best known for his role as Mr. Sulu in Star Trek. Catch him in To Be Takei which is all about his early life and his rise to pop culture fame.
  • M. Night Shyamalan is an Indian-born American director whose movie The Sixth Sense made him one of the most famous directors in America.
  • Stream a film from Kanopy to celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.



  • Duke Kahanamoku, the father of international surfing, was born in Honolulu in 1890 and later won several Olympic medals in swimming before his surfing caught the eye of Hollywood.
  • Michelle Kwan has 37 perfect scores in her ice skating career. She wore a Chinese good luck charm when competing.
  • Maya Lin, daughter of Chinese refugees, was born in 1959 and studied architecture at Yale. She designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. at the age of 21.
  • Dwayne Johnson, one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood, began his career wrestling as "The Rock." His mother's side is Samoan and he recently voiced the Polynesian demigod Maui in Moana, Disney's first film with a Polynesian princess.


  • Dr. Ho Feng-Shan, the Chinese Consul-General in Vienna, issues Chinese visas to Jews who hoped to leave Nazi Germany during WWII. He never told his wife or children or friends; after he passed away in San Francisco in 1997, a single sentence in his obituary hinted at his past. In 2000, he was awarded the title of "Righteous Among the Nations." Read about him and many others who saved lives during the Holocaust.
  • Thousands of Chinese laborers laid 1,776 miles of track from America's East to West Coasts beginning in 1863. Hundreds of men died due to the dangerous work but America became the first continent to have a coast-to-coast railroad
  • Queen Liliuokalani was the first female monarch of Hawaii and the last sovereign of the Kamehameha dynasty until the US annexed Hawaii in 1898. Sadly, Queen Liliuokalani thought her throne would be restored.
  • Add more books to your to-be-read pile from Asian American history or check out Pacific history.  
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