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The Library of Virginia is closed to the public, but we can still observe Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month virtually! Let’s explore the Library’s holdings through a new research guide and bibliography, blog posts, and even a snapshot of an exhibit to replace (temporarily) a display that we had planned for the Library’s Local History and Genealogy Room.

Check back each Friday this month to see the next entry in this series or access them all here.

Read the Presidential proclamation and the Governor’s proclamation for this year’s Heritage Month. 

W ho are Asian Pacific Islander Desi Americans? In the 2000 U.S. Census, the Federal Government defined “Asian American” to include persons having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent. “Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander” includes Native Hawaiian, Samoan, Guamanian or Chamorro, Fijian, Tongan, or Marshallese peoples, and encompasses the people within the United States jurisdictions of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. The previous “Asian and Pacific Islander” (API) category was separated into “Asian Americans” and “Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders.” In our references, Desi countries of origin include Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

U.S. passport of Barbara Ann Hunt, Virginia Department of the Treasury, Unclaimed Property, Accession 50624, Box 56, Lot 13047, Papers of Bill Hunt, 1960-1979, Library of Virginia, Richmond, VA; Lab #20_0647 065.

We use the term “Asian Pacific Islander Desi American” to include all people of Asian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander ancestry who trace their origins to the countries, states, jurisdictions and/or the diasporic communities of these geographic regions. It is important to note that APIDAs are generally grouped by regions, although we recognize some of these can be politically controversial. There is tremendous diversity, with Asia having more than 40 countries, and there are even more ethnicities than countries—for example, the Hmong are an ethnic group from Laos.

Why do we observe Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month? In June of 1978, Rep. Frank Jefferson Horton (R-NY) and co-sponsor Rep. Norman Yoshio Mineta (D-CA) introduced a bill “Authorizing the President to proclaim a week, which is to include the seventh and tenth of the month, during the first ten days of May of 1979 as ‘Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week.’”

The observation would thus include the anniversaries of the first Japanese immigrant in the United States (7 May 1843) and the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad (10 May 1869), made possible by Chinese labor. The bill became law on 5 October 1978, and it was observed for the first time the following year. Beginning in 1990, the observance was for all of May and not just one week. On 9 January 2002, Del. L. Scott Lingamfelter (R-31) and co-sponsor Del. Michele B. McQuigg (R-51) filed House Joint Resolution 18, which designated May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month in Virginia. The bill was passed on 4 March 2002. In 2009, at the federal level, the month took on its current name: Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

We have created several new resources that are available for those who are researching Asian Pacific Islander Desi  Americans (APIDA):  an archival research guide, extensive bibliographies for published resources that are available from the Library of Virginia and elsewhere, and a website that consolidates all of this information.

The Library’s newest archival research guide, “Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) Research at the Library of Virginia” explores the Library’s limited but significant holdings that document Asian Americans and the connections between Asian countries and Virginia’s government and citizens. The records and manuscripts ranging from the Colonial Papers, specifically the 1693-94 bond of Thomas Carpenter and Richard Nusum to take items that were manufactured in Asia on board the ship Mary and Ellery (Acc. 36138), to 21st-century websites from Virginia’s governors and state agencies. The majority of the manuscripts and records date from the 1940s to the present. The guide surveys government records, as well as personal papers and the records of organizations, businesses, and churches.

`{`Chinese Air Force officers who accompanied 78 Chinese Air Cadets to Bakersville, California`}`, 22 June 1945, United States, Army, Signal Corps Photograph Collection, Call number c1:2/28/084.

In addition to the archival research guide, there is also a comprehensive Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) selected secondary source guide. This guide helps researchers navigate national, regional, and local historiographies and secondary sources in order to understand how APIDAs may have lived in Virginia. It is organized into a number of subjects that can aid in APIDA research in Virginia, including pertinent publications on APIDAs Studies in Virginia, Virginia and Southern History, Race Studies, APIDA Studies in the South, and Books on APIDAs, with subcategories on some specific ethnic groups. A shorter, “starter” version of this guide will also be available for the public with great sources to build context and begin research. Our webpage can help any interested researcher get started by pointing to a number of Library of Virginia digital collections where APIDAs can be found.

It is important to note that the research guide, bibliographies, and website are evolving and that there are a number of ethnic groups and populations not yet represented. We will be updating these resources regularly.

We will be sharing blog posts throughout May on APIDAs in Virginia, exploring topics such as segregation and the immigrant experience. When the Library of Virginia reopens to the public, look for an exhibit on Kuy So and Barbara Ann Hunt in the Local History and Genealogy Room, based on records from the Unclaimed Property papers. Cambodian refugee Kuy So will be the subject of an upcoming blog post. Barbara Ann Hunt (born Duk Hyun Kim) was born in South Korea, married a native of Tennessee, and settled in Virginia for a time before returning to South Korea in the late 1970s.  The snapshot of the exhibit is online now.

The history of Asian Pacific Islander Desi Americans (APIDAs) is an important part of the American experience. Their stories encompass a rich legacy of achievements, along with hardships and sacrifices that deserve to be explored. Although May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, the mark made by APIDAs on history is something that should always be remembered. From building the first transcontinental railroad to protecting the nation during times of war, APIDAs have played significant roles in shaping modern history. Keep following this series to learn more about the APIDA experience in Virginia history!

Emma Ito, Education and Program Specialist
Cara Griggs, Reference Archivist

Header Image: Group of Japanese-American wounded of the 100th Battalion, 34th Division], 22 June 1945, United States, Army, Signal Corps Photograph Collection, Call number c1:2/18/014.

Emma Ito

Former Education & Programs Specialist

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