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Selected Significant Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders Events and Persons

The historical journey of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders has been a long and arduous one. There are numerous significant events and persons that have shaped its progress up to the present time. The information below is intended only to raise general awareness about some of the accomplishments of Asian American/Pacific Islanders and the barriers that they faced and continue to face today. The selected events/persons summary is necessarily oversimplified.

1790 The U. S. Naturalization Act limited citizenship to only "free white persons."
1830 The Census Bureau reported three Asian Americans of Chinese origin.
1840s Chinese began to arrive in Hawaii to work on sugarcane plantations, to be followed by Japanese, Filipinos, and other Asians.
1850s 25,000 Chinese moved to the West Coast to work in gold mining.
1854 Yung Wing became the first Chinese to graduate from an American college, and later published the first English-language autobiography by an Asian Pacific American.
1860s 25,000 Chinese helped build the transcontinental railroad.
The Census Bureau reported 35,000 Asian Pacific Americans, all of Chinese origin.
1868 The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution was adopted, granting citizenship to all persons born in the U. S., but barring Asians as the only group from naturalization.
1882 Congress passed the first of the Chinese Exclusion Acts, preventing the immigration of Chinese laborers. 
1885 28 Chinese were killed in race violence in Rock Springs, Wyoming.
1886 7,500 Chinese were engaged in the laundry business.
1891 Lydia Liliuokalani became the last queen of Hawaii.
1898 The Philippines became a colony of the U. S. after the Spanish-American War.
1907 Congress barred the importation of Japanese laborers.
1911 Lue Gim Gong developed an all year-around orange and grapefruit in DeLand, Florida, giving rise to the citrus industry in the state.
1917 Congress passed the Immigration Act to bar all immigration from the Asia Pacific Triangle except the Philippines and Japan.
1920s 300,000 Asians were working in Hawaiian sugar plantations.
The Philippines became a commonwealth; annual immigration quota for Filipinos was set at 50.
1940s More than 50,000 Asian Pacific Americans served in the Second World War.
The 442nd Regimental Combat Team of Japanese Americans became the most Decorated unit of its size in U. S. military history, earning over 18,000 individual decorations and suffering over 9,000 casualties, including 600 fatalities.
U.S. government ordered 110,000 Japanese Americans on the West Coast into 10 detention camps.
1943 The Chinese Exclusion Acts were repealed. Annual immigration quota for Chinese was set at 105, compared to 60,000 for England.
1946 Annual Filipino immigration quota was raised to 100.
1947 Naturalization eligibility granted to Filipinos and Asian Indians.
1948 Vicki Manalo Draves became the first Asian Pacific American woman in Olympic history to win both the platform and the springboard diving gold medals.
The Immigration and Naturalization Act extended naturalization eligibility to all races.
Sammy Lee won back-to-back Olympic gold medals in diving. He later became a medical doctor and coach to Greg Louganis.
1955 Dalip Singh Saund, representing the 29th District of California, became the first Asian Pacific American elected to Congress.
1956 Sessue Hayakawa was nominated for an Oscar award as best supporting actor in Bridge on the River Kwai.
1957 Tsung Dao Lee and Chen Ning Yang won the Nobel Prize in physics.
1959 Hiram Fong became the first U. S. senator from Hawaii and was the main architect for changing immigration laws in the 1960s.
Daniel Inouye, war hero and current U. S. Senator, became the first U. S. Representative from Hawaii.
1960 The Census Bureau reported 880,000 Asian Pacific Americans, or 0.5% of the total population.
1963 James Wong Howe won the second Oscar award as director of photography. Famous among his 119 feature films were Yankee Doodle Dandy and Casablanca.
Patsy Mink became the first Asian Pacific American woman to serve in Congress.
The national origin provision of the Immigration and Naturalization Act was repealed.
Philip Vera Cruz and other Filipinos joined a grape strike that led to the formation of the United Farm Workers.
1968 Hargobind Khorana won the Nobel Prize in Medicine.
The Census Bureau reported 1.4 million Asian Pacific Americans, or 0.7% of the total population.
Jose Aruego published and illustrated five children's books, including one of the year's outstanding picture books. He produced over 60 titles in the next 20 years.
1972 CBS-TV hired Connie Chung to be an on-air reporter.
1973 Seiji Ozawa was named music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Bruce Lee, star of kung fu movies, died.
Minoru Yamasaki designed the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York.
1975 Vietnam and Cambodia fell to the communism.
1976 Samuel Chao Chung Ting won the Nobel Prize in physics.
Yo-Yo Ma, cellist, graduated from Harvard University and settled in the Boston area.
1978 Asian Pacific American Heritage Week was passed by Congress.
1979 Ieoh Ming Pei received the Gold Medal of the American Institute of Architects. His works include the extended National Gallery of Art, JFK International Airport, Dallas City Hall, JFK Library and L'Enfant Plaza.
The Census Bureau reported 3.5 million Asian Pacific Americans, or 1.5% of the total population.
1982 The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, designed by Maya Lin, opened. She later designed the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama.
1984 Sian Biao Woo was elected Lieutenant Governor in Delaware, the highest state office attained by an Asian Pacific American.
1985 Ellison Onizuka became the first Asian Pacific American in space. He later died in the Challenger tragedy in 1986.
Haing Ngor became the first Asian Pacific American to receive an Oscar award for acting.
1986 Yuan Tseh Lee won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Wendy Lee Gramm became Chair of the Commodity Future Trading Commission.
Playwright David Henry Hwang received a Tony Award for the best Broadway play of the year for M. Butterfly.
Greg Louganis came from behind and won the 1988 Summer Olympics platform diving with the last dive.
1989 Michael Chang won the French Open tennis tournament.
Asian Pacific American Network in Agriculture (APANA) was formally organized in USDA.
Julia Chang Bloch became the first Asian Pacific American to serve as an U. S. Ambassador to Nepal.
Maxine Hong Kingston published the third award-winning book Tripmaster Monkey, following The Woman Warrior and China Men.
Myung-Whun Chung became music director of opera de la Bastille.
The Census Bureau reported 7.3 million Asian Pacific Americans, or 2.9% of the total population.
An Wang - inventor, Philanthropist and founder of Wang Laboratories - died.
1991 Amy Tan Published her second best-selling novel, The Kitchen God's Wife, after her first novel Joy Luck Club, which was made into a popular movie.
May became Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
1992 Kristi Yamaguchi won the Winter Olympics ice skating championship.
1993 Benjamin Cayetano elected as the first Filipino American Governor of a State (Hawaii).
Lon Hatamiya was the first and only Asian Pacific American appointed to serve as the Administrator of an USDA Agency.
1992 Sam Wong published a report on the Asian Pacific American employees in the USDA, titled "Neither Black nor White: A New American Dilemma."
Over 4,000 Asian Pacific Americans have served in more than 90 countries in the Peace Corp.
Rachelle Chong was appointed as the first Asian American to serve on the Federal Communications Commission.
1997 Gary Locke elected as the first Chinese American State Governor (Washington).
Jeremy Wu was the first Asian Pacific American career SES in USDA. Currently, he is the Director of Civil Rights at the Department of Transportation.
Angel Cielo was the second Asian Pacific American career SES in USDA.
Isi A. Siddiqui was appointed as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs in USDA. He was the highest-ranking Asian Pacific American from Asian Indian heritage.
1998 Bill Lann Lee was the first Asian Pacific American appointed as Acting Assistant Attorney General and is the highest ranking Justice Department Official of Chinese Heritage.
Michelle Kwan won the U.S. National Ice-Skating Championship and the silver medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics.
1999 Deepak Chopra has been recognized as an International wellness Guru and prolific author in Arts and Humanities.
2000 The Census Bureau reported 12 million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, or 3.6-4.2% of the total US population.
Norman Y. Mineta is the first Asian Pacific American to serve as cabinet Secretary, both of the Department of Commerce (Clinton Administration) and Department of Transportation (Bush Administration - 2001).
Elaine L. Chao is the first highest-ranking Asian Pacific American woman appointed as Secretary of Labor (Bush Administration).
Joseph Jen is the first Asian Pacific American to serve as Under Secretary, Research, Education, and Economics for the Department of Agriculture.
Perfecto Santiago is the first Asian Pacific American career SES in Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA.

Did You Know That...

… there are 28 Asian and 19 Pacific Islander (API) subgroups representing a vast array of languages and cultures? Together, this is the fastest growing racial group in the US - a 95% increase from 1980 to 1990, a 48% increase since 1990. Census estimates by 2050, one out of every 10 Americans will be of Asian or Pacific Islander descent.

... there is an equivalent of Ellis Island called Angel Island in California? It was used under the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 for detention and interrogation.

... a Chinese immigrant in Oregon called Ah Bing developed the Bing cherry? No, it was not Bing Crosby.

... 83% of the Asian Pacific American employees in USDA graduated from college, 43% have advanced degrees, however, there are only seven career Asian American/Pacific Islander Senior Executives in the Department? Before 1997, there were none.

... fortune cookies were invented in San Francisco?

... Chinese laundryman in the late nineteenth century did not learn the trade in China? There were no laundries in China at that time.

... in the first decades of this century, Japanese American farmers grew 70% of California's strawberries, 95% of fresh snap beans, 67% of fresh tomatoes, and 95% of spring and summer celery?

... WWII American soldiers coined the word "Boondocks" or "Boonies" from the Tagalog word "Bundok" meaning mountain?

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