Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month was enacted by Public Law 102-450 on October 28, 1992. The purpose of the law was to honor the achievements of Asian/Pacific Americans and to recognize their contributions to the United States. This recognition was the culmination of Jeanie Jew's efforts in the 1970's to establish Asian Pacific American Heritage Week. Following the United States bicentennial in 1976, Jew realized that Asian Pacific Americans were ". . .were excluded from those stories during celebrations of the country's bicentennial. We were literally ignored even though we were part of building this country."
A year later, Jew enlisted the support of Rep. Frank Horton (R-NY) who, along with Rep. Norman Mineta, (D-CA), introduced House Resolution 540. This resolution proclaimed the first ten days of May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Week. Senators Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga introduced similar legislation into the Senate.
May was selected for the recognition because two significant events in history took place in that month: Japanese immigrants first arrived in the United States on May 7, 1843, and the transcontinental railroad was completed on May 10, 1869 (Golden Spike Day). Furthermore, since school is still in session during May, educators could capitalize on the opportunity to include APA history into the curriculum.
On Oct. 2, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed the Joint Resolution and the first Asian Pacific American Heritage Week was celebrated in May 1979. In 1992, the week was expanded to a month-long recognition when President George Bush signed the law permanently designating May of each year as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. The law was unanimously supported by both the House of Representatives and the Senate.