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Then and Now Experiences of Asians and Asian Americans

Overview

Read about featured U.S. Government events that impacted the civil rights of Asians and Asian Americans since 1868, and find out about notable individuals in American history.

U.S. Government Resources for Historical Research

Screenshot of "Asian American and Pacific Islander Materials: A Resource Guide"

Library of Congress

Asian American and Pacific Islander Materials: A Resource Guide

  • Learn how to research and locate materials in "multiple formats on Asian American/Pacific Islander studies and related resources."
Screenshot of "Series: Finding a Path Forward: Asian American Pacific Islander National Historic Landmarks Theme Study"

National Park Service

Series: Finding a Path Forward: Asian American Pacific Islander National Historic Landmarks Theme Study

  • Read a series of essays for " contemplation or commemoration of historic events/people/ideas in the narratives of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders within the histories of the United States."
Screenshot of "Asian Pacific American Heritage Month"

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

  • Explore records, images, articles, videos, and more.

Timeline: Notable Individuals

Click on the side arrows to see brief biographies of notable Asians and Asian Americans, including Kalpana Chawla, Susan Ahn CuddyVictoria Manalo DravesHiram FongKamala Harris, Leah Hing, Mazie Hirono, Daniel Inouye, Pramila JayapalMaya Ying Lin, Yo-Yo Ma, Norman Mineta, Patsy Mink, Wataru MisakaSadao Munemori, Ellison Shoji Onizuka, Antonio Borja Won Pat, and Dalip Singh Saund.

Dalip Singh Saund (1899–1973)

First Asian American elected to U.S. Congress (1957–1963).

Hiram Fong (1906–2004)

First Chinese American elected to U.S. Congress (1959–1977), first Asian American elected to the U.S. Senate, and the first "Chinese-American candidate for the presidency" (in 1964).

Leah Hing (1907–2001)

First U.S.-born Chinese American woman to earn a pilot's license in 1932.

Antonio Borja Won Pat (1908–1987)

First Delegate from Guam (1973–1985).

Susan Ahn Cuddy (1915–2015)

First female Asian American naval officer and first female gunnery officer.

Sadao Munemori (1922–1945)

First Japanese American to be awarded the Medal of Honor (posthumously in 1946).

Wataru Misaka (1923–2019)

First non-white player and the first Asian American to play in the now-known National Basketball Association in 1947.

Victoria Manalo Draves (1924–2010)

First Asian American to win Olympic gold medals in 1948.

Daniel Inouye (1924–2012)

First U.S. Representative for the State of Hawaii (1959–1963), and then later a U.S. Senator (1963–2012). 

Patsy Mink (1927–2002)

First Asian American woman elected to the U.S. Congress.

Norman Mineta (1931–2022)

First Asian American to serve as a U.S. cabinet secretary.

Ellison Shoji Onizuka (1946–1986)

First Asian American to fly in space in 1985 (STS-51-C).

Mazie Hirono (1947–Present)

First Asian American woman U.S. Senator and first woman senator from Hawaii (2013–Present).

Yo-Yo Ma (1955–Present)

Cellist awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2001.

Maya Ying Lin (1959–Present)

Designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and 2009 National Medal of Arts recipient.

Kalpana Chawla (1962–2003)

First South Asian American woman in space in 1997 (STS-87).

Kamala Harris (1964–Present)

First woman, Black American, and South Asian American elected Vice President (2021–Present).

Pramila Jayapal (1965–Present)

First South Asian American woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives (2017–Present).

Timeline: Featured U.S. Government Events Concerning Civil Rights

Click on the side arrows in this box for more information.


 Date Event  Date Event
 July 9, 1868 Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution  December 18, 1944 Korematsu v. United States
 March 20, 1876 Chy Lung v Freeman  January 19, 1948 Oyama v. California
 May 6, 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act  October 3, 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act
 May 10, 1886 Yick Wo v. Hopkins  January 21, 1974  Lau v. Nichols
 March 28, 1898 Wong Kim Ark v. United States  March 28, 1979 Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week
 February 5, 1917 Immigration Act of 1917  August 10, 1988 Civil Liberties Act of 1988
 November 13, 1922 Takao Ozawa v. United States  October 23, 1992  Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month
 February 19, 1923 Bhagat Singh Thind v. United States  June 26, 2018  Trump v. Hawaii
May 26, 1924 Immigration Act of 1924  May 20, 2021 COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act
 February 19, 1942 Executive Order No. 9066  June 29, 2023 Students for Fair Admissions v Harvard and Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. University of North Carolina et al.
 June 21, 1943 Hirabayashi v. United States    

July 9, 1868 | Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution

"Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."^

Ratified on this date, this Amendment "extends liberties and rights granted by the Bill of Rights to formerly enslaved people" and "equal protection under the laws" for all citizens.*

For more information:

March 20, 1876 | Chy Lung v Freeman

"The passage of laws which concern the admission of citizens and subjects of foreign nations to our shores belongs to Congress, and not to the States... If it be otherwise, a single State can, at her pleasure, embroil us in disastrous quarrels with other nations."^

The U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of Chy Lung because the U.S. Government, not state governments, has the power to set immigration rules.

May 6, 1882: Chinese Exclusion Act

"Whereas in the opinion of the Government of the United States the coming of Chinese laborers to this country endangers the good order of certain localities within the territory thereof... the coming of Chinese laborers to the United States be, and the same is hereby, suspended; and during such suspension it shall not be lawful for any Chinese laborer to come, or having so come after the expiration of said ninety days to remain within the United States.."^

The Act places a 10-year ban on Chinese immigration and new requirements for those who already reside in the country.^

May 10, 1886 | Yick Wo v. Hopkins

"The guarantees of protection contained in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution extend to all persons within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, without regard to differences of race, of color, or of nationality. Those subjects of the Emperor of China who have the right to temporarily or permanently reside within the United States, are entitled to enjoy the protection guaranteed by the Constitution and afforded by the laws."^

The U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of Yick Wo because the California ordinance violated the "equal protection" clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, even though he is not an American citizen.

March 28, 1898 | Wong Kim Ark v. United States

"The American citizenship which Wong Kim Ark acquired by birth within the United States has not been lost or taken away by anything happening since his birth."^

The U.S. Supreme Court rules that the detention of Wong Kim Ark is in violation of the citizenship clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

February 5, 1917 | Immigration Act of 1917

"... may designate the particular language or dialect in which he desires the examination to be made, and shall be required to read the words printed on the slip in such language or dialect."^

This Act is the first "widely restrictive immigration law" that also includes a literacy test in one's own language and an increased number of medical examinations before and after departing the country.^^*

November 13, 1922 | Takao Ozawa v. United States

"The determination that the words 'white person' are synonymous with the words 'a person of the Caucasian race' simplifies the problem, although it does not entirely dispose of it. Controversies have arisen and will no doubt arise again in respect of the proper classification of individuals in border line cases."^

The U.S. Supreme Court "denies naturalization to Takao Ozawa, a Japanese born in Japan, on the grounds that he is not a white person."^^

February 19, 1923 | Bhagat Singh Thind v. United States

"It is not without significance in this connection that Congress, by the Act of February 5, 1917, c. 29, § 3, 39 Stat. 874, has now excluded from admission into this country all natives of Asia within designated limits of latitude and longitude, including the whole of India."^

Referring to the Immigration Act of 1917, the U.S. Supreme Court tries to "divine the original intent of Congress in using the term[s] 'white persons,' and the "'Asiatic barred zone,'" ruling that "Hindus were racially ineligible to naturalize."^^

May 26, 1924 | Immigration Act of 1924

"The annual quota of any nationality shall be 2 per centum of the number of foreign-born individuals of such nationality resident in continental United States as determined by the United States census of 1890, but the minimum quota of any nationality shall be 100."^

The Act "effectively cuts off all immigration from Asia."^^

February 19, 1942 | Executive Order No. 9066

"Whereas the successful prosecution of the war requires every possible protection against espionage and against sabotage to national-defense material, national-defense premises, and national-defense utilities... I hereby authorize and direct the Secretary of War, and the Military Commanders whom he may from time to time designate... to prescribe military areas in such places and of such extent as he or the appropriate Military Commander may determine, from which any or all persons may be excluded, and with respect to which, the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary of War or the appropriate Military Commander may impose in his discretion."^

This presidential order "allows the forcible removal of nearly 120,000 U.S. citizens and residents of Japanese descent from their homes to federal assembly and relocation camps across the West and further inland."*

June 21, 1943 | Hirabayashi v. United States

"The purpose of Executive Order No. 9066, and the standard which the President approved for the orders authorized to be promulgated by the military commander... was the protection of our war resources against espionage and sabotage."^

The U.S. Supreme Court upholds the curfew order.

December 18, 1944: Korematsu v. United States

"Civilian Exclusion Order No. 34 which, during a state of war with Japan and as a protection against espionage and sabotage, was promulgated by the Commanding General of the Western Defense Command under authority of Executive Order No. 9066 and the Act of March 21, 1942, and which directed the exclusion after May 9, 1942 from a described West Coast military area of all persons of Japanese ancestry, held constitutional as of the time it was made and when the petitioner-an American citizen of Japanese descent whose home was in the described area-violated it."^

The U.S. Supreme Court upholds the lower courts' decisions that Fred Korematsu violated an "exclusion order by the military."^^

January 19, 1948 | Oyama v. California

"The California Alien Land Law, as applied in this case to effect an escheat to the State of certain agricultural lands recorded in the name of a minor, American citizen because they had been paid for by his father, a Japanese alien ineligible for naturalization who was appointed, the son's guardian, held to have deprived the son of the equal protection of the laws and of his privileges as an American citizen... The sole basis for this discrimination, which resulted in a citizen losing the land irretrievably and without compensation, was the fact that his father was Japanese."^

Though the laws are left in place, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that its enforcement violates Fred Oyama's rights under the "equal protection" of the Fourteen Amendment.

October 3, 1965 | Immigration and Nationality Act

"To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act, and for other purposes."^

Amending the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, this Act "eliminates the national origins quota system, sets a ceiling of 290,000 annual visas (120,000 from the Western Hemisphere; 170,000 from the Eastern Hemisphere), and limits yearly emigration from any one country to 20,000."^^

January 21, 1974 | Lau v. Nichols

"The failure of the San Francisco school system to provide English ,language instruction to approximately 1,800 students of Chinese ancestry who do not speak English, or to provide them with other adequate instructional procedures, denies their, a meaningful opportunity to participate in the public -educational program and thus violates §601 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans discrimination based "on the ground of race, color, or national origin," in "any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance," and the implementing regulations of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare."^

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling "expands rights for students with Limited English Proficiency (LEP)."^^

March 28, 1979 | Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week

"America's greatness—its ideals, its system of government, its economy, its people—derives from the contribution of peoples of many origins who come to our land seeking human liberties or economic opportunity... I call upon the people of the United States, especially the educational community, to observe this week with appropriate ceremonies and activities."^

President Jimmy Carter issues the first presidential proclamation for Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week. 

August 10, 1988 | Civil Liberties Act of 1988

"To implement recommendations of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians."^

This Act "acknowledges the ethically unjust and unconstitutional nature of the Japanese American incarceration period during World War II."^^

October 23, 1992 | Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month

"To designate May of each year as "Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month."^

U.S. Congress expands recognition the "history, concerns, contributions, and achievements of Asian and Pacific Americans" from a week to the month of May.

June 26, 2018 | Trump v. Hawaii

"The dissent’s reference to Korematsu, however, affords this Court the opportunity to make express what is already obvious: Korematsu was gravely wrong the day it was decided, has been overruled in the court of history, and—to be clear—“'has no place in law under the Constitution.'"^

While ruling to uphold President Donald Trump's travel ban policy, the U.S. Supreme Court formally repudiates the Korematsu ruling.

May 20, 2021 | COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act

"Congress finds the following: (1) Following the spread of COVID–19 in 2020, there has been a dramatic increase in hate crimes and violence against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders. (2) According to a recent report, there were nearly 3,800 reported cases of anti-Asian discrimination and incidents related to COVID–19 between March 19, 2020, and February 28, 2021, in all 50 States and the District of Columbia. (3) During this time frame, race has been cited as the primary reason for discrimination, making up over 90 percent of incidents, and the United States condemns and denounces any and all anti-Asian and Pacific Islander sentiment in any form."^

This Act "requires the Justice Department to facilitate expedited review of hate crimes and authorizes grants to State, local, and tribal governments to prevent, address, or respond to hate crimes."^^

June 29, 2023 | Students for Fair Admissions v Harvard and Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. University of North Carolina et al.

"For the reasons provided above, the Harvard and UNC admissions programs cannot be reconciled with the guarantees of the Equal Protection Clause. Both programs lack sufficiently focused and measurable objectives warranting the use of race, unavoidably employ race in a negative manner, involve racial stereotyping, and lack meaningful end points. We have never permitted admissions programs to work in that way, and we will not do so today. At the same time, as all parties agree, nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise."^

In a 6-to-2 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court upends the "precedent permitting limited use of race in higher education admissions."^^