Digging Deeper into Asian American History

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Since the mid-19th century, Asian Americans have played an essential role in the development, culture, and social fabric of the United States. Yet, more often than not, their unique histories are only touched upon in the high school curriculum (with the possible exceptions of Chinese exclusion and the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II). But a rise in crimes against the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community since the beginning of the global pandemic has started both a reckoning and a desire to better understand the AAPI community and the diverse histories of the many groups who comprise it.

This month, as we celebrate AAPI Heritage Month, help students dig deeper into AAPI stories, histories, and peoples and how they have contributed to the rich and complicated history of the U.S. A few suggested topics to explore:

  • How Asian Americans resisted racist practices and laws through such court cases as Tape v. Hurley (1885)—a school segregation case almost 70 years before Brown v. Board of EducationU.S. v. Wong Kim Ark (1898)—a case interpreting the Fourteenth Amendment as granting birthright citizenship to children born in the U.S. regardless of their parents’ status; and U.S. v. Thind (1923)—a case exploring the definitions of race and citizenship at the time.
  • How Filipino American labor organizer and activist Larry Itliong worked with César Chávez, joining their organizations to fight in solidarity for fair conditions for farm workers in the 1960s.
  • How individuals of different Asian backgrounds collaborated under the term “Asian Americans“ for the first time in the late 1960s and 1970s, and—inspired by the efforts of African Americans in their quest for civil rights—organized and fought for ethnic studies curricula, an end to the Vietnam War, and reparations for the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans.
  • How the events of September 11, 2001, caused a backlash against South Asian Sikhs, Muslims, and Arab Americans, and the long-lasting effects of that discrimination.
  • How Asian Americans have contributed to U.S. politics, sports, literature, culture, and entertainment.

Investigating these topics will help students not only understand the perspectives of Asian Americans today, but also appreciate how incorporating different voices, collaborations, and perspectives is essential to understanding U.S. history.

Judy Fay

Sr. Director, Digital at ABC-CLIO/Bloomsbury

As the Sr. Director at ABC-CLIO/Bloomsbury, Judy leads a team responsible for the company’s award-winning  Solutions databases and is dedicated to creating products and resources that help students make connections with history in all of its diversity. The team is excited to have recently launched the Asian American Experience database. 

This resource is brought to you by ABC-CLIO products for classrooms and libraries:

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