History of Asian Americans

Asian American history is the history of ethnic and racial groups in the United States who are of Asian descent. Spickard (2007) shows that "'Asian American' was an idea invented in the 1960s to bring together Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino Americans for strategic political purposes. Soon other Asian-origin groups, such as Korean, Vietnamese, Hmong, and South Asian Americans, were added."[1] For example, while many Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino immigrants arrived as unskilled workers in significant numbers 1850–1905 and largely settled in Hawaii and California, many Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Hmong Americans arrived in the United States as refugees following the Vietnam War. These separate histories have often been overlooked in conventional frameworks of Asian American history.[2]

Since 1965, shifting immigration patterns have resulted in a higher proportion of highly-educated Asian immigrants entering the United States.[3] This image of success is often referred to as the "model minority" myth.[4] For the contemporary situation, see Asian American.

Hostility to immigration

San Lorenzo, California. Fruit and vegetable stand on highway operated by a Filipino American.

The Chinese arrived in the U.S. in large numbers on the West Coast in the 1850s and 1860s to work in the gold mines and railroads. They encountered very strong opposition—violent as riots and physical attacks forced them out of the gold mines (citation needed). The Central Pacific railroad hired thousands, but after the line was finished in 1869 they were hounded out of many railroad towns in states such as Wyoming and Nevada. Most wound up in Chinatowns—areas of large cities which the police largely ignored. The Chinese were further alleged to be "coolies" and were said to be not suitable for becoming independent thoughtful voters because of their control by tongs. The same negative reception hit the Asians who migrated to Mexico and Canada.[5][6]

The Japanese arrived in large numbers 1890–1907, many going to Hawaii (an independent country until 1898), and others to the West Coast. Hostility was very high on the West Coast, but not especially violent. Hawaii was a multicultural society in which the Japanese experienced about the same level of distrust as other groups. Indeed, they were the largest population group by 1910, and after 1950 took political control of Hawaii. The Japanese on the West Coast of the U.S. (as well as Canada and Latin America) were interned during World War II, but very few on Hawaii at the Honouliuli Internment Camp.


According to Chan (1996), the historiography of Asians in America falls into four periods. The 1870s to the 1920s saw partisan debates over curtailing Chinese and Japanese immigration; "Yellow Peril" diatribes battled strong, missionary-based defenses of the immigrants. Studies written from the 1920s to the 1960s were dominated by social scientists, who focused on issues of assimilation and social organization, as well as the World War II internment camps. Activist revisionism marked the 1960s to the early 1980s as a new wave of Asian-American scholars rejected the dominant assimilationist paradigm, and instead turned to classical Marxism and internal colonialist models. Starting in the early 1980s there was an increased stress on human agency. Only after 1990 has there been much scholarship by professional historians.


Major milestones according to standard reference works[7] are:

16th century

17th century

18th century

19th century

20th century to 1940


21st century

See also

Histories of specific ethnic/national subgroups:

Further reading

Reference books

Surveys by scholars



  1. Paul Spickard, "Whither the Asian American Coalition?" Pacific Historical Review, Nov 2007, Vol. 76 Issue 4, pp 585-604
  2. Dorothy Fujita-Rony, "Water and Land: Asian Americans and the U.S. West," Pacific Historical Review, (2007) 76#4 pp 563–574,
  3. Gary Y. Okihiro, Margins and mainstreams: Asians in American history and culture (2014).
  4. Jennifer Lee and Min Zhou. "The Success Frame and Achievement Paradox: The Costs and Consequences for Asian Americans." Race and Social Problems (2014) 6#1 pp: 38-55.
  5. Lee (2005)
  6. Alexander Saxton, Indispensable Enemy: Labor and the Anti-Chinese Movement in California (1971)
  7. Hyung-Chan Kim, ed. Dictionary of Asian American History (1986); Franklin Ng, The Asian American Encyclopedia (6 vol., 1995)
  8. "Historic Site, During the Manila". Michael L. Baird. Retrieved 5 April 2009.
  9. Eloisa Gomez Borah (1997). "Chronology of Filipinos in America Pre-1989" (PDF). Anderson School of Management. University of California, Los Angeles. Retrieved 25 February 2012.
    Gonzalez, Joaquin (2009). Filipino American Faith in Action: Immigration, Religion, and Civic Engagement. NYU Press. pp. 21–22. ISBN 9780814732977. Retrieved 11 May 2013.
    Jackson, Yo, ed. (2006). Encyclopedia of Multicultural Psychology. SAGE. p. 216. ISBN 9781412909488. Retrieved 11 May 2013.
    Juan Jr., E. San (2009). "Emergency Signals from the Shipwreck". Toward Filipino Self-Determination. SUNY series in global modernity. SUNY Press. pp. 101–102. ISBN 9781438427379. Retrieved 11 May 2013.
  10. Gonzalez, Joaquin (2009). Filipino American Faith in Action: Immigration, Religion, and Civic Engagement. NYU Press. p. 21. ISBN 9780814732977. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
    "Asian Heritage in the National Park Service Cultural Resources Programs" (PDF). Cultural Resources Outreach and Diversity. National Park Service. Retrieved 13 May 2013. Point Reyes National Seashore (Point Reyes, Marin County) was where the Spanish ship, the San Agustin, shipwrecked in 1595 with Filipino sailors aboard. The surviving crew eventually traveled by land to Mexico.
    Hank Pellissier (17 July 2010). "Halo-Halo". New York Times. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
    Carl Notle (14 November 1995). "400th Anniversary Of Spanish Shipwreck / Rough first landing in Bay Area". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
  11. Martha W. McCartney; Lorena S. Walsh; Ywone Edwards-Ingram; Andrew J. Butts; Beresford Callum (2003). "A Study of the Africans and African Americans on Jamestown Island and at Green Spring, 1619-1803" (PDF). Historic Jamestowne. National Park Service. Retrieved 13 May 2013. A month later, George Menefie, who by 1624 had patented Study Unit 4 Tract L Lot F upon the waterfront and in 1640 patented Study Unit 1 Tract D Lot C on the Back Street, used “Tony, an East Indian” as a headright. (p. 52)
    Slaves, Tony, an East Indian and Africans brought out of England (p.238)

    Francis C.Assisi (16 May 2007). "Indian Slaves in Colonial America". India Currents. Retrieved 11 May 2013.
  12. See "Filipino Migration to the United States"
  13. "Banana: A Chinese American Experience". Retrieved 8 May 2008.
  14. Mae M. Ngai, Impossible subjects: Illegal aliens and the making of modern America (Princeton University Press, 2014.)
  15. Payne, Charles (1984). "Multicultural Education and Racism in American Schools". Multicultural Education and Racism in American Schools. 23 (2): 124–131. doi:10.1080/00405848409543102.
  16. Payne, Charles (1984). "Theory into Practice". Theory into Practice.
  17. "BROWN V. BOARD: Timeline of School Integration in the U.S.". Teaching Tolerance. 2004. Retrieved 18 November 2013.
  18. See "Racial Riots"
  19. Min, Pyong-Gap (2006), Asian Americans: contemporary trneds and issues, Pine Forge Press, p. 189, ISBN 978-1-4129-0556-5
  20. Irving G. Tragen (September 1944), "Statutory Prohibitions against Interracial Marriage", California Law Review, 32 (3): 269–280, doi:10.2307/3476961, citing Cal. Stats. 1933, p. 561.
  21. I. Cindy, and Fen Cheng, Citizens of Asian America: Democracy and Race During the Cold War (NYU Press, 2013)
  22. Vecsey, George (August 11, 2009). "Pioneering Knick Returns to Garden". The New York Times. p. B-9. Retrieved 28 October 2010. He lasted just three games, but is remembered as the first non-Caucasian player in modern professional basketball, three years before African-Americans were included.
  23. Steve Almasy: After 60 years, Olympians are fast friends again, CNN.com, 22 Aug 2008
  24. "Film reveals real-life struggles of an onscreen 'Dragon Lady'." January 3, 2008. Retrieved: January 27, 2010.
  25. "Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage | The University of Southern Mississippi". usm.edu. Retrieved 23 May 2014.
  26. Dunbar, A.P. (1990). Delta Time: A Journey Through Mississippi. Pantheon Books. ISBN 9780394571638.
  27. Yoon K. Pak, Dina C. Maramba, and Xavier J. Hernandez, eds. Asian Americans in Higher Education: Charting New Realities (AEHE Volume 40, Number 1. John Wiley & Sons, 2014)
  28. Johnson, Julie (August 9, 2008). "Stockton native to lead church". Recordnet.com.
  29. Jake Tapper (2008-12-11). "A Nobel Prize Winner in the Cabinet". ABC News.
  30. Mei Fong, Kersten Zhang and Gao Sen (2009-02-26). "Commerce Nominee a Locke In China". The Wall Street Journal.
  31. "New Asian Immigrants To US Now Surpass Hispanics". CBSDC. 19 June 2012. Retrieved 19 June 2012.
  32. Mark Guarino (19 June 2012). "How Asians displaced Hispanics as biggest group of new US immigrants". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 21 June 2012. In order to better compete on the global market, American companies are recruiting heavily on college campuses and abroad, primarily in India, China, and South Korea.
  33. 1 2 Heather Knight (21 February 2011). "Ed Lee and Jean Quan: mayors and longtime friends". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  34. Nagesh, Gautham (August 1, 2011). "Commerce Secretary Gary Locke resigns to become Ambassador to China". The Hill.
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