Researching the History of Asian Pacific Americans

The content of this publication reflects the growth and dynamism of the field of Asian-American studies since its emergence in the 1960s. Growing out of the social movements in the 1960s and 1970s that emphasized researching “history from below” and giving voice to previously neglected topics and groups, early works in the field focused on the experiences of Americans of Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, and Korean descents.23 Scholars have also used a transnational focus by analyzing the experiences of Asian immigrants in their home countries and comparing them to their experiences in the United States.24

Dalip Singh Saund Handbill/tiles/non-collection/A/APA_intro_24_SaundHandbill_HC.xml Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives, Gift of Dr. Eric Saund
About this object
This 1960 campaign handbill not only touts California Representative Dalip Singh (Judge) Saund’s qualifications but also includes book reviews for his autobiography, Congressman from India.
The story of APAs is multifaceted, and we relied on the following general texts to help ground our discussions, particularly in the contextual essays: Sucheng Chan, Asian Americans: An Interpretive History (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1991); Roger Daniels, Asian America: Chinese and Japanese in the United States since 1850 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1988); Erika Lee, The Making of Asian America: A History (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2015); Ronald Takaki, Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans, revised and updated edition (Boston, MA: Little, Brown, 1998); and Janelle Wong, S. Karthick Ramakrishnan, Taeku Lee, and Jane Junn, Asian American Political Participation: Emerging Constituents and Their Political Identities (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2011). We also benefitted from two useful reference works: David K. Yoo and Eiichiro Azuma, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Asian American History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), which includes excellent essays that summarize recent trends and developments in Asian-American studies; and Hyung-Chan Kim, Dictionary of Asian American History (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1986), which provides useful descriptions of people, places, and events within Asian Pacific American history. Several documentary texts also proved valuable: Franklin S. Odo, The Columbia Documentary History of the Asian American Experience (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002); Hyung-Chan Kim, Asian Americans and Congress: A Documentary History (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996), which offers a detailed analysis of Congress’s role in U.S. immigration policy and its effects on APAs; and Hyung-Chan Kim, Asian Americans and the Supreme Court: A Documentary History (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), an edited collection of Supreme Court cases that defined U.S. immigration policies toward Asian Americans with useful explanatory essays.

Teodoro R. Yangco Postage Stamp/tiles/non-collection/A/APA_intro_25_YangcoStamp_HC.xml Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
In the 1970s, the Philippine government issued a series of stamps honoring notable citizens, including former Resident Commissioner Teodoro R. Yangco.
The growth and management of the United States’ overseas empire in the late 19th and early 20th centuries composes a major portion of this story. Two monographs in particular were critical to understanding U.S.-Philippine relations and the insular political context into which Filipino Resident Commissioners fit. Peter W. Stanley, A Nation in the Making: The Philippines and the United States, 1899–1921 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1974) offers an overview of the Philippines’ early history as an American territory often from the perspective of both U.S. and Filipino officials working in Manila. Stanley describes the asymmetrical relationship between the Philippines (which he describes as severely underdeveloped) and the United States (which he called an “ambivalent” superpower) as being “developmental and consensual.”25 Michael Cullinane, Ilustrado Politics: Filipino Elite Responses to American Rule, 1898–1908 (Quezon City, PI: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2003) examines in depth how the wealthiest and most-educated members of Philippine society—a handful of whom eventually served as Resident Commissioners in the U.S. Congress—helped to create and guide what Cullinane calls “the Filipino-American collaborative empire.”26 Similarly, Bonifacio S. Salamanca, The Filipino Reaction to American Rule, 1901–1913 (Hamden, CT: Shoe String Press, 1968) offers a useful study of how then governor general and later President William H. Taft altered Philippine institutions and worked with Filipino elites to reinforce U.S. colonial rule over the islands. Frank H. Golay, Face of Empire: United States-Philippine Relations, 1898–1946 (Quezon City, PI: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1997) offers a detailed overview of the evolution of U.S. colonial policy in the Philippines from 1898 to 1946 using a large number of congressional sources. Unlike the collaborative and consensual framework suggested by Cullinane and Stanley, Golay’s account emphasizes the United States’ more heavy-handed, unilateral approach.

“Troubles Which May Follow an Imperial Policy” Cartoon/tiles/non-collection/A/APA_intro_26_TroublesCartoon_NYPL.xml Image courtesy of the New York Public Library “Troubles Which May Follow an Imperial Policy,” Charles Nelan’s 1898 cartoon, draws on racial anxiety about the effects of U.S. expansion. The print shows the House Chamber rostrum pierced by spears, as Speaker Thomas Brackett Reed fearfully eyes a man labeled “The Representative from the Philippines.”
Other useful general accounts include H. W. Brands, Bound to Empire: The United States and the Philippines (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992); and Stanley Karnow, In Our Image: America’s Empire in the Philippines (New York: Random House, 1989). Bernardita R. Churchill, Philippine Independence Missions to the United States, 1919–1934 (Manila, PI: National Historical Institute, 1983) details the succession of independence missions to Washington that Filipino politicians organized to secure greater autonomy for their nation. Theodore Friend, Between Two Empires: The Ordeal of the Philippines, 1929–1946 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1965) studies a transitional period between the Philippines’ colonial status and the path to becoming an independent nation-state. Paul A. Kramer, The Blood of Government: Race, Empire, the United States, and the Philippines (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006) describes how changing racial perceptions between Americans and Filipinos affected their interactions from the War of 1898 to Philippine independence in 1946. Tariff policy was a major preoccupation of Philippine Resident Commissioners, and Pedro E. Abelarde, American Tariff Policy towards The Philippines (New York: King’s Crown Press, 1947), while dated, provides a comprehensive guide to Congress’s main policy focus with the Philippines. Abelarde highlights the tension between American business interests and the Filipino people as well as the long-term consequences of America’s transpacific trade policy.

Political Leaders from Hawaii in 1915/tiles/non-collection/A/APA_intro_27_HILeaders1915_HC.xml Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
This 1915 photograph shows 11 political leaders from Hawaii: from left to right, front row: Charles F. Chillingworth, Wade Warren Thayer, Lucius E. Pinkham, Delegate Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole, Henry L. Holstein; from left to right, back row: J. H. Coney, William H. Rice, Norman Watkins, George H. Huddy, James L. Coke, and P. J. Goodness.
We found the following general histories of the Hawaiian Islands to be helpful: Ralph S. Kuykendall and A. Grove Day, Hawaii: A History—From Polynesian Kingdom to American State, rev. ed. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice- Hall, 1961); Gavan Daws, Shoal of Time: A History of the Hawaiian Islands (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1968); and H. Brett Melendy, Hawaii: America’s Sugar Territory, 1898–1959 (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1999). Several books helped us to understand Hawaii’s long transition from territory to state: John S. Whitehead, Completing the Union: Alaska, Hawai‘i, and the Battle for Statehood (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2004); Roger Bell, Last Among Equals: Hawaiian Statehood and American Politics (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1984); and Tom Coffman, The Island Edge of America: A Political History of Hawai‘i (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘I Press, 2003).

For information on the United States’ relations with other Pacific Island territories, including Guam, American Samoa, and Micronesia, we relied on Charles S. Campbell, The Transformation of American Foreign Relations, 1865–1900 (New York: Harper and Row, 1975); Robert F. Rogers, Destiny’s Landfall: A History of Guam, rev. ed. (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2011); and Arnold H. Leibowitz, Defining Status: A Comprehensive Analysis of United States Territorial Relations (Dordrecht, Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff, 1989).

Spark M. Matsunaga, Daniel K. Inouye, President Lyndon B. Johnson, and Hiram L. Fong/tiles/non-collection/A/APA_intro_28_MatsunagaInouyeLBJFong_LBJLibrary.xml Photograph by Yoichi Okamoto; image courtesy of the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library/National Archives and Records Administration From left to right: Representative Spark M. Matsunaga, Senator Daniel K. Inouye, President Lyndon B. Johnson, and Senator Hiram L. Fong exit Air Force One on a visit to the Members’ home state of Hawaii in 1966.
Immigration and the policies the United States has used to regulate it during the last 150 years are central components of Asian Pacific Americans’ experiences. We benefitted greatly from two major works on the topic: Mae M. Ngai, Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004), a groundbreaking study that describes how the “illegal alien” became a pivotal issue in U.S. immigration policy in the early 20th century; and Roger Daniels, Coming to America: A History of Immigration and Ethnicity in American Life (New York: Harper Perennial, 1990), which is a standard survey text on U.S. immigration. For descriptions of the Asian-American experience particularly, see Roger Daniels, Asian America: Chinese and Japanese in the United States since 1850 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1988); Bill Ong Hing, Making and Remaking Asian America Through Immigration Policy, 1850–1990 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1993); David M. Reimers, Still the Golden Door: The Third World Comes to America (New York: Columbia University Press, 1992); Stephan Thernstrom et al., Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1980); Mary C. Waters and Reed Ueda, eds., The New Americans: A Guide to Immigration since 1965 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007); and Yuji Ichioka, The Issei: The World of the First Generation Japanese Immigrants, 1885–1924 (New York: Free Press, 1988).

Notice to Aliens of Enemy Nationalities/tiles/non-collection/A/APA_intro_29_Notice_to_Enemy_Aliens_NARA.xml Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration This 1942 Department of Justice notice, written in Italian, German, and Japanese, advised immigrants of these “enemy nationalities” to obtain a certificate of identification, which they were required to carry with them at all times. The identification program was intended as a wartime protection against suspected enemies living in the United States.
The story of Japanese-American internment during World War II and the long effort to right that historic injustice, culminating in redress in the 1980s, is perhaps the defining, unifying thread in the story of APAs in Congress. We relied on the authoritative work of Roger Daniels, including Prisoners Without Trial: Japanese Americans in World War II (New York: Hill and Wang, 1999) and The Japanese American Cases: The Rule of Law in Time of War (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2013); Mitchell T. Maki et al., Achieving the Impossible Dream: How Japanese Americans Obtained Redress (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999); and Leslie T. Hatamiya, Righting a Wrong: Japanese Americans and the Passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1993).

Samuel Wilder King and Marvin McIntyre/tiles/non-collection/A/APA_intro_30_King_LC.xml Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Hawaiian Delegate Samuel Wilder King, left, and White House official Marvin McIntyre examine leis in 1936.
Though the field of Asian Pacific studies has flourished in recent decades, it is still marked by significant historical gaps, including the underrepresentation of APAs in Congress in the secondary literature. A few individuals, such as Hawaiian Delegates Robert W. Wilcox and Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole and Philippine Resident Commissioner Carlos Peña Romulo, are the subject of published biographies, though emphases on the congressional phases of their careers vary. Others, such as Philippine Resident Commissioners Manuel L. Quezon and Camilo Osias, California Representative Dalip Singh (Judge) Saund, and Senator Daniel K. Inouye, wrote autobiographies. The daughter of Resident Commissioner Quintin Paredes wrote a memoir of her father’s career. Unpublished academic theses explore the career of a handful of Members, such as Hawaii’s Hiram L. Fong and Teodoro R. Yangco of the Philippines, but remain inaccessible to a general readership. No trade or scholarly biographies exist of other prominent legislative figures, such as Spark M. Matsunaga, Patsy Takemoto Mink, or Norman Y. Mineta. One aim of these profiles is to generate interest in future studies of such key Members as well as lesser-known, but equally significant, individuals, such as Jaime C. de Veyra of the Philippines, Hawaii’s Samuel Wilder King, and Guamanian Delegate Antonio Borja Won Pat.27

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23David K. Yoo and Eiichiro Azuma, “Introduction,” in The Oxford Handbook of Asian American History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016): 1–6. Some of the seminal works of this field include Elmer Clarence Sandmeyer, The Anti-Chinese Movement in California (1939; repr., Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1973); Roger Daniels, The Politics of Prejudice: The Anti-Japanese Movement in California and the Struggle for Japanese Inclusion (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1962); and Alexander Saxton, The Indispensable Enemy: Labor and the Anti-Chinese Movement in California (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971).

24Keith L. Camacho, “Filipinos, Pacific Islanders, and the American Empire,” in The Oxford Handbook of Asian American History, ed. David K. Yoo and Eiichiro Azuma (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016): 13–29, quotation on p. 14. Camacho reviewed works that cover “labor and migration” of Filipinos and Pacific Islanders between their homelands and the United States; the military value and use of the islands throughout the 20th century; and the effects of U.S. colonial rule on the islands and their respective cultures.

25Peter W. Stanley, A Nation in the Making: The Philippines and the United States, 1899–1921 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1974): vi.

26Michael Cullinane, Ilustrado Politics: Filipino Elite Responses to American Rule, 1898–1908 (Quezon City, PI: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2003): 1.

27For a fuller explanation about Asian-American studies and politics, see Gordon H. Chang, “Asian Americans, Politics, and History,” in The Oxford Handbook of Asian American History, ed. David K. Yoo and Eiichiro Azuma (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016): 331–344.