History of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM) celebrates the contributions and culture of community members with Asian Pacific American (APA) heritage in the month of May. APAHM was established in 1990 when the United States Congress passed Public Law 102-405. May was selected to commemorate the first immigration of Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843 and the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad, primarily built by Chinese immigrants, on May 10, 1869. Today, APAHM serves as a reflective and celebratory month where we pause to recognize the contributions of our local Asian Pacific American communities and those abroad while learning more about our American history and the history of our APA communities in their ancestral homeland and in the US. Our local APA communities include families that have lived in the US for generations, indigenous Pacific Islander groups living in US states and territories, and those that have come to the US as immigrants or refugees. The range of communities and cultures that APAHM covers is vast and ranges from those with ancestry from over 50 different countries such as Japan, China, Korea, India, Bhutan, Laos, Philippines, Vanuatu, Kiribati, and Tonga.
For more information about Asian Pacific Heritage Month visit: http://asianpacificheritage.gov
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In the early 1900s, when the Palos Verdes Peninsula was mainly ranch land, Japanese farmers began cultivating about 2000 coastal acres, which stretched from Malaga Cove to Western Avenue. Using special dry farming methods with crops that flourished in moist air conditions, these farmers played a significant role in providing vegetables for California dinner tables, as well as garbanzo beans for worldwide markets.
On November 24, 1923, approximately 40 first generation Japanese families gathered to commemorate the completion of a community building which would be used for meetings, language classes, judo lessons, and social events. The celebration was captured in a large photograph, which hung in the Local History Room. Visitors to the Room were puzzled about what connection the photo had to Palos Verdes history. Who were these people? Where on the Peninsula was this building?
The 40 Families History Project began as an effort to discover the names of these families, and to put the children with the right parents. Publicity about the Project brought descendants to the Library who recognized grandparents, supplied initial information, and shared family photos. Public records such as the 1920 and ’30 federal censuses, online immigration databases, and the National Archives Internee Files added more information. Conversations with relatives and neighbors gradually fleshed out the paper records.
After identifying about 120 of the 187 faces on the photograph, suddenly knowing just the names was not enough. The Project expanded to learning more about the people themselves: Where did they come from? What brought them here? What was life like for them? Where were they sent during the war? Did they return to the Peninsula afterward? As more information was collected, separate files about each family were constructed.
A ride past these 2000 acres of today’s Peninsula coastline, with its sumptuous homes, Terranea Resort, and Trump Golf Club, gives no indication of the former wide open space where rolling slopes, dotted here and there with farmhouses, looked directly out to the sea.
The original stated mission of the 40 Families Project was “to preserve the soon-to-be-forgotten history of the Peninsula’s Japanese American settlement to educate future generations.” New advances in technology and the dedication of local history researchers are helping to accomplish that mission. The Project remains vibrant and on-going, and any additional stories, pictures, memories, or documents relating to these people are welcomed.
For other information about the Project, see the Los Angeles Times article by Jeff Gottlieb, published January 1, 2010 on page A6 and visit our Local History Center.
- Cora Cooks Pancit by Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore (Book)
- Drawn Together by Minh Lê (Book, Overdrive eBook)
- Round Is a Mooncake by Roseanne Thong (Book, Hoopla eBook)
- Blackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly (Book)
- Front Desk by Kelly Yang (Book, CD Audiobook, Overdrive eBook, Overdrive eAudiobook)
- Listen, Slowly by Thanhhà Lai (Book, Hoopla eBook, Hoopla eAudiobook)
- Midsummer's Mayhem by Rajani LaRocca (Book, Hoopla eAudiobook)
- The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata (Book, Overdrive eBook, Hoopla eAudiobook)
- Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix by Jacqueline Briggs Martin (Book, Listen and Read Book, Hoopla eBook)
- Fred Korematsu Speaks Up by Laura Atkins (Book, Hoopla eBook)
For more titles for kids, click here
- Internment by Samira Ahmed (Book, Overdrive eBook)
- Frankly in Love by David Yoon (Book, Overdrive ebook, Overdrive eAudiobook)
- Anna K by Jenny Lee (Book, Hoopla eAudiobook, Overdrive eBook)
- Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card by Sara Saedi (Book, Overdrive eBook)
- All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung (Book, Hoopla eAudiobook, Hoopla eBook, CD Audiobook)
- Parachutes by Kelly Yang (Book)
- The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang (Book)
- They Called Us Enemy by George Takei (Book, Hoopla eBook)
- All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir (Book)
- Sway With Me by Syed Masood (Book)
- Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi (Book)
For more titles for teens, click here
- America is in the Heart by Carlos Bulosan (Book, Hoopla eAudiobook)
- All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung (Book, CD Audiobook, Hoopla eAudiobook, Hoople eBook)
- Good Talk: A memoir in conversations by Mira Jacob (Book)
- The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (Book, Large Print Book, CD Audiobook, Hoopla eBook)
- The Making of Asian America by Erika Lee (Book, Hoopla eAudiobook)
- Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (Book, Overdrive eBook, Overdrive eAudiobook, Chinese Language Book)
- The Sympathizer by Viet Nguyen (Book, Hoopla eBook, Overdrive eBook, Chinese Language Book)
- From a Native Daughter: colonialism and sovereignty in Hawai'i by Haunani Kay Trask (Book)
- From Unincorporated Territory [guma'] by Craig Santos Perez (Book)
- On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong (Book, Overdrive eBook, Overdrive eAudiobook)
For more titles for adults, click here
- Crazy Rich Asians (DVD, Blu-Ray DVD)
- The Farewell (DVD, Kanopy)
- Gook (DVD, Hoopla)
- Jiro Dreams of Sushi (DVD, Blu-Ray DVD, Hoopla)
- Meet the Patels (DVD)
- Parasite (DVD)
- Whale Rider (DVD, Hoopla)
For more movies and television, click here
- Books and Boba
- Naan Stop Chit Chat
- Pasifika Issues
- Saturday School
- They Call Us Bruce
- List of over 300 Asian American podcasts compiled by Asian American Podcasters
Music CDs, click here
California Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus (Comprehensive list of resources across the state)
Chinese Historical Society of Southern California
Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute
Hawai'i's Daughters Guild of California
Korean American Coalition of Los Angeles
Korean Cultural Center of Los Angeles
Pacific Islander Health Partnership
South Bay Chinese Women's Association
South Bay Japanese American Citizens League
Thai Community Development Center