Why is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Celebrated in May?

The legislation to annually designate May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month referenced two key dates: May 7 and May 10. May 7, 1843, marks the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to the United States. And May 10, 1869, or Golden Spike Day, recognizes the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in the U.S., which had significant contributions from Chinese workers.

The railroad stretched from the West Coast to the East Coast, and 15,000 to 20,000 Chinese immigrants were a major part of its construction. Working conditions were brutal and Chinese workers weren't receiving the same pay as their white counterparts, according to the Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project. Unlike white workers, Chinese workers had to pay for their own food and had to work longer hours, according to the project. The railroad was fundamental to the development of the American West, according to History.com. It cut travel time across the U.S. from months to less than a week.

Source: NPR “The story behind Asian Pacific American Heritage and why it’s celebrated in May”
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