Honoring Notable Asian Pacific Americans for APA Heritage Month

Today’s post is written by Alexandra Villaseran, Archives Technician at the National Archives in Washington, DC

On May 7, 1843, the first Japanese immigrants arrived in the United States. A couple of decades later, on May 10, 1869, the transcontinental railroad was completed; the majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants. For these reasons May was chosen as Asian Pacific American (APA) Heritage month– a time to celebrate the cultures and history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States. As reflected by the holdings of the National Archives, the history of the US has been shaped by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who built or maintained communities in the midst of exclusionary immigration policies and racial discrimination. As diverse peoples found their voice in America, they retained truly global cultural heritages.

The National Archives’ employee affinity group, Asian Pacific American Unity, celebrates the achievements and contributions of the following five notable individuals this month. Their contributions to social justice, community organizing, and blazing new trails are part of the stories we work together to preserve and commemorate here at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

Yuri Kochiyama, “a Japanese American activist who dedicated her life to the pursuit of social justice, not only for the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, but all communities of color.” NARA’s digital holdings reflect her presence in this archived White House notice that honors her.

Grace Lee Boggs is described by NARA as a Detroit-based “Chinese-American activist, philosopher, and feminist.” She demonstrated a lifetime commitment to growing community power that spread beyond Detroit and influenced grassroots activists nationwide. NARA holds her FBI file as well as the following digital records celebrating her life and achievements: 100 Years of Action: Celebrating Grace Lee Boggs and Statement by the President on the Passing of Grace Lee Boggs.

Larry Itliong, the Filipino American farmworker, labor activist, and organizer, started his career as a farm worker in California. He founded the Filipino Farm Labor Union and later worked with César Chávez to create the United Farm Workers (UFW). NARA’s holdings include this news clipping (NAID 24550179) in which he is shown speaking in 1968.

Queen Emma Kalanikaumakaʻamano Kaleleonālani Naʻea Rooke established Queen’s Hospital to save the rapidly declining Native Hawaiian population, providing free services to those suffering from foreign-introduced illnesses like smallpox and influenza. The National Register of Historic Places nomination of her summer home (NAID 63815823) is available in full on the National Archives Catalog.

Image of women members of congress.
Washington, D.C. Women members of United States Congress: Seated, Senator Maurine Newberger, Oregon; Representative Frances Bolton, Ohio; Senator Margaret Chase Smith, Maine; Standing, Representatives, Florence Dwyer, New Jersey; Martha Griffiths, Michigan; Edith Green, Oregon; Patsy Mink, Hawaii (fourth from left, standing); Leonor Sullivan, Missouri; Julia Hansen, Washington; Edna Kelly, New York; Charlotte Reid, Illinois. NAID 541939

The first woman of color and the first Asian American elected to Congress, Patsy Takemoto Mink was a trailblazer in both local and national U.S. politics. Mink is credited for persuading her party to continue support for school desegregation and to make the Civil Rights Commission a permanent agency. See the following entries for further information:

6/29/1966 Letter from the President for Friends of Patsy T. Mink, Honolulu, Hawaii (NAID 84782654)

United States Information Service (USIS) Interview with Congresswomen Martha Griffiths and Patsy Mink (NAID 39784)

Mink, Patsy (NAID 4519399)

Image of Congresswoman Patsy Mink.
“Secretary Mel Martinez with Congresswoman Patsy Mink” NAID 6179789 [cropped].

Next: Duke Kahanamoku

APA Unity

We invite you to join us in this journey to discover the united voice that connects our diverse roots. APA Unity works to raise cultural awareness and visibility, organize events, highlight holdings at NARA relevant to Asian American and Pacific Islander history and culture, and create new resources for visiting researchers.