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.

The United States first recognized Asian American heritage by presidential proclamation in 1978. Beginning in 1990, the observance extended to include the entire month of May, and in 2009, began to include Pacific Islanders specifically. Although the observance called for in the 1992 law required the participation of the individual states, Virginia did not enact its own legislation until 2002.

The federal legislation may be traced through the Congressional Record, reports, and presidential proclamations that are available on the U.S. Government Publishing Office website. The Library of Virginia has published copies of the Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Journal of the Senate of Virginia, and Acts of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia available on reading room shelves. The Library also holds the original records, called rough journals, that were used to compile these volumes. The journals are comprised of loose papers in folders that may be accessed by appointment in the State Records Center’s reading room.

Federal Recognition

On 11 June 1978, Rep. Frank Jefferson Horton (R-NY) and cosponsor Rep. Norman Yoshio Mineta (D-CA) introduced House Joint Resolution 1007, a “Joint resolution authorizing the President to proclaim a week, which was to include the 7th and 10th of the month, during the first 10 days in May of 1979, as ‘Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week.’”1 The two dates chosen hold special significance. On 7 May 1843, the first Japanese immigrant arrived in the United States.  On 10 May 1869, the Golden Spike Ceremony was held in Promontory Summit, Utah Territory, to mark the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, which depended on the work of 11,000 Chinese immigrants.2

The resolution was referred to the Committee on Post Office and Civil Service, which approved it.3 Two hundred eighteen cosponsors were required for the resolution to advance, and their number included five Virginians: Representatives Dave Satterfield, Bob Daniel, Joseph Fisher, Herbert E. Harris, and G. William Whitehurst.4 

Norman Yoshio Mineta, 2005

Courtesy of Wikimedia

Those who spoke in support of the resolution on 10 July 1978 praised the contributions of Jeanie F. Jew of the National Coalition for an Asian/Pacific American Heritage Proclamation and Ruby G. Moy of the Asian/Pacific Congressional Caucus for their support of the resolution. Representative Horton noted that “over 2 million Americans can trace their ancestry to Asian/Pacific areas of the world. Their contribution to the growth of the United States has been an example for all Americans.” Rep. Mineta noted that “Since the earliest days of our Republic, Asian/Pacific families have contributed to the growth, prosperity, and stability of the United States.  It is fitting and appropriate that this contribution be recognized.”  Rep. Edward J. Derwinski noted that Asians’ “presence and contributions have resulted in a stimulating cross-fertilization of cultures which makes itself evident in art, music, literature, poetry, education, science, and research.”5 Of the 520 representatives, 360 voted in favor of the resolution, 6 against, and 1 “present.” Sixty-five Representatives did not vote.6

Spark Matsunaga, c1975

Courtesy of Wikimedia

The resolution then went to the U.S. Senate. On 19 September 1978, Senator Spark Matsunaga argued that “Observance of an annual Pacific and Asian American Heritage Week, especially in the Nation’s schools, would contribute toward a better understanding of the cultural contributions made by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to our American way of life.” The joint resolution passed and was ordered to be enrolled and signed on 25 September 1978 and presented to the President on 27 September.7 President Jimmy Carter signed the Joint Resolution on 5 October 1978.8 On 28 March 1979, the president issued Proclamation 4650 concerning Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week, 1979, for the week beginning 4 May 1979.9 In 2009, at the federal level, the month took on its current name: Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.10

A decade after the first Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week, Rep. Frank Jefferson Horton asked that an entire month be set aside perpetually for the observance. His request was rejected, although Congress did approve bills in 1990 and 1991 to establish a month-long observance11 On 8 July 1992, Rep. Horton once again introduced legislation (H.R. 5572) concerning the recognition of Asian and Pacific Americans, this time to designate all of May to be Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month. The House of Representatives passed the bill on 4 October 1992, and the Senate followed on 7 October. The bill was signed by President George H. W. Bush on 23 October 1992.12

This time the Committee on Post Office and Civil Service altered its opinion based on the recognition of the large and growing population of Asian Americans and said that

“the existence of similar annual periods of public observance in recognition of other numerically large racial minority groups clearly supports the waiver of the committee’s prohibition against recurring annual commemoratives with respect to ‘Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month’.”13

Most notably, the 1992 proclamation called for “the chief executive officer of each State is required to issue annually a proclamation calling on the people of the State to observe the month designated. . .with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities.”14

You can read the 2020 Presidential Proclamation online now.

Virginian Recognition

One decade later, on 9 January 2002, Delegate L. Scott Lingamfelter (R-31st) and co-sponsor Michele B. McQuigg (R-51st) presented House Joint Resolution 18, “Designating May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month in Virginia” to the House of Delegates, and it was filed and referred to the Committee on Rules. On 18 January, Delegate Winsome Earle Sears (R-91st) was added as a  patron, as was Delegate John R. Cosgrove (R-78th) on 21 January. The Committee on Rules reported on 30 January that the resolution was accepted unanimously by their committee, with a total of seventeen votes. The resolution was approved on 1 February with 94 yeas and 6 delegates not voting.

The resolution then passed to the Senate on 4 February. On 28 February, the Committee on Rules made two amendments to the original joint resolution, adding a “the” and referencing the President of the United States instead of President George W. Bush specifically. On 5 March, the amended version of the resolution was accepted. The House concurred on 1 March, and the resolution passed on 4 March with 96 yeas, 2 nays, and 2 not voting.15 The resolution was then destined to be listed among all of the laws and resolutions that were passed during the 2002 session of the General Assembly in the Acts of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia, 2002 Regular Session.

Office of the Governor Record Group 3, Governor James S. Gilmore Records, Accession 39023, Barcode 1150794, Mansion Event Files, Box 11, Folder 44: Invitation to Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Reception, 18 May 1999.

The published journals of the House of Delegates and Senate provide a summary of H.J.R. 18’s journey from a proposal to a House Joint Resolution that is a part of the laws of Virginia.  The rough journals from the House and Senate contain the papers that were used to track H.J.R. 18’s progress through the General Assembly—some of which were obviously used during meetings and sessions—and were later summarized for the publications.  A sampling of the types of records that may be found are:

The search strategy is to consult the bill’s history on the Legislative Information Services website and then request the folders for the dates noted in the history. Recent rough journals are stored at the State Records Center, so patrons should contact Archives Reference Services to make an appointment to view the records.

Cara Griggs, Reference Archivist

Footnotes

[1] Representative Horton, speaking on H.J. Res. 1007, on 19 June 1978, 95th Cong., 2nd sess., Congressional Record vol. 124, pt. 14:18212.

[2] Representative Horton, speaking on H.J. Res. 1007, on 22 June 1978, 95th Cong., 2nd sess., Congressional Record vol. 124, pt. 14:18583-18584; “A Legacy from the Far East,” Golden Spike National Historical Park, Utah, accessed 25 April 2020, https://www.nps.gov/gosp/learn/historyculture/a-legacy-from-the-far-east.htm; “Four Special Spikes,” Golden Spike National Historical Park, Utah, accessed 25 April 2020, https://www.nps.gov/gosp/learn/historyculture/four-special-spikes.htm; An Act To designate May of each year as “Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month,” Public Law 102-450, U.S. Statutes at Large 106 (1992): 2251-2252.

[3] U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Committee on Post Office and Civil Service, Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week: Report (to Accompany H.J. Res. 1007), 95th Cong., 2nd sess, 1978, Rep. 95-1335.

[4] List of co-sponsors for H.J. Res. 1007, on 22 June 1978, 95th Cong., 2nd sess., Congressional Record vol. 124, pt. 14:18583-18584.

[5] Representatives Horton, Mineta, and Derwinski speaking on H.J. Res. 1007, on 10 July 1978, 95th Cong., 2nd sess., Congressional Record vol. 124, pt. 15:19925.

[6] House of Representatives vote on H.J. Res. 1007, on 10 July 1978, 95th Cong., 2nd sess., Congressional Record vol. 124, pt. 15:19940.

[7] Senator Matsunaga speaking on H.J. Res. 1007, on 19 September 1978, 95th Cong., 2nd sess., Congressional Record vol. 124, pt. 22:29969; Enrolled bills and joint resolutions to be signed, including H.J. Res. 1007, on 25 September 1978, 95th Cong., 2nd sess., Congressional Record vol. 124, pt. 23: 31333; Senate enrolled bills and joint resolutions signed, including H.J. Res. 1007, on 27 September 1978, 1978, 95th Cong., 2nd sess., Congressional Record vol. 124, pt. 24:32086

[8] Joint Resolution Authorizing and requesting the President to proclaim the 7-day period beginning on May 4, 1979, as “Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week,” Public Law 95-419, U.S. Statutes at Large 92 (1978): 920.

[9] “Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week, 1979,” Proclamation 4650 of March 28, 1979, U.S. Statutes at Large 93 (1979): 1504.

[10] “Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, 2009,” Proclamation 8369 of May 1, 2009, U.S. Statutes at Large 123 (2009): 3636-3637.

[11] U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Committee on Post Office and Civil Service, Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month: Report (to Accompany H.R. 5572), 102nd Cong., 2nd sess, 1992, Rep. 102-957.

[12] “102 H.R. 5572 (1991-1992): Designate May of Each Year—Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month,” Congressional Research Service, accessed 13 February 2020, https://congressional.proquest.com/congressional/docview/t03.d04.102_hr_5572?accountid=44788.

[13] U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Committee on Post Office and Civil Service, Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month: Report (to Accompany H.R. 5572), 102nd Cong., 2nd sess, 1992, Rep. 102-957.

[14] An Act To designate May of each year as “Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month,” Public Law 102-450, U.S. Statutes at Large 106 (1992): 2251-2252.

[15] Virginia, Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia, 2002 Regular Session, vol. 2, (Richmond: Commonwealth of Virginia, 2002).

Header Image Credit

South Korean passport of Mrs. Duk Hyun 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 046.

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