Blog / Published on May 9, 2023

Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

May is AANHPI Heritage Month, a time to honor successes and contributions AANHPI people have made to American Culture.

An Asian American woman and her son stand before artwork depicting six signs of the Chinese Zodiac.Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month honors and celebrates the contributions the AANHPI community made throughout United States history and best wishes for future successes as this community grows.

Recognition of AANHPI Heritage Month started in 1977 when Rep. Frank Horton (NY) introduced legislation to have the first ten days of May recognized for Pacific/Asian American Week, which was rejected. A year later, he reintroduced the bill which was signed into effect by former President Jimmy Carter on Oct. 5, 1978, to honor Pacific/Asian American contributions to the arts, commerce, industry, government, transportation, and sciences. In 1990, Congress extended the observance from ten days to the whole month of May. The heritage month was extended to honor the arrival of the people who became the first Japanese Americans, and to acknowledge the work it took to complete the transcontinental railroad, built primarily by Chinese immigrants.

From 1863 to 1869, more than 12,000 Chinese immigrants were recruited to construct the Central Pacific Railroad (CPRR). This project linked CPRR with the United Pacific Railroad (UPRR). Immigrants came from China hoping to strike gold in California, but when the gold rush wasn’t prosperous, they found work with the CPRR.

Chinese laborers working on the CPRR faced many adversities, including wages 30-50% less than the average wage, laborious and hazardous working conditions, social isolation, and discrimination. Despite their challenges, the railroad laborers laid 690 miles of railway in four years. They established an existing record of 10 miles of railway laid in one day. In 2014, Chinese laborers who constructed the railway were inducted into the Labor Hall of Fame.

There are more than 40 countries that make up the lands Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders call home. In America, AANHPI is the fastest-growing ethnic group. Currently, there are more than 19.4 million AANHPI community members living in the United States.

AANHPI Heritage Month is about recognizing the contributions, celebrating the culture, and acknowledging their influence throughout the United States of America, including the work done on the transcontinental railroad, the Asian American civil rights movement, along with influencing food, fashion, music, and language too!

 Learn more and celebrate Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with the links below:

Don’t forget you can get to these events by using Community Transit's Plan My Trip tool.