11 Moments From Asian American History That You Should Know

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Friday, April 30, 2021

More than 30 years after President George H.W. Bush signed a law that designated May 1990 as the first Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, much of Asian American history remains unknown to many Americans—including many Asian Americans themselves.

Often the Asian-American history taught in classrooms is limited to a few milestones like the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the incarceration of people of Japanese descent during World War II, and that abridged version rarely includes the nearly 50 other ethnic groups that make up the fastest-growing racial and ethnic group in the U.S. in the first two decades of the 21st century.

To many, the resulting lack of awareness was highlighted after the March 16 Atlanta spa shootings that left six women of Asian descent dead. The killings fit into a larger trend of violence against Asians failing to be seen or charged as a hate crime, even as leaders lamented that “racist attacks [are]…not who we are” as Americans. But in fact, while the shootings represented the peak of more than a year of increased reports of anti-Asian harassment and discrimination, the tragedy was also part of a more than 150-year-old history of anti-Asian racism and violence in the U.S. 

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Story by:BY PAULINA CACHERO AND OLIVIA B. WAXMAN