Asian and Pacific Americans make up more than 5% of the U.S. population, over 17 million people—and those numbers are growing. Their ancestral roots represent over 50% of the world, extending from East Asia to Southeast Asia, and from South Asia to the Pacific Islands and Polynesia.
In the first exhibition of its kind, the Smithsonian celebrates Asian Pacific American history across this multitude of incredibly diverse cultures, and explores how Asian Pacific Americans have shaped and been shaped by the course of our nation’s history. Rich with compelling, often surprising stories, the exhibition takes a sweeping look at this history, from the very first Asian immigrants to the influx of highly skilled workers many decades later.
The exhibition charts the beginnings of Asians in America, from the idea of Asia first motivating Christopher Columbus’ trans-Atlantic voyage of discovery in 1492 to the arrival of Asian laborers all along the Gulf Coast and Eastern American seaboard throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. From there, the exhibition tells the rich and complex stories of early Asian immigrants finding homes and participating in key moments in American history. Asian immigrants panned in the Gold Rush, hammered ties in the Transcontinental Railroad, and fought on both sides in the Civil War. And, on plantations in Hawai`i and farms in California, they helped build the nation’s agricultural system.
Through the decades, Asian immigrants struggled against legal exclusion, civil rights violations, and unlawful detention, such as the 120,000 Japanese who were interned during WWII. Since the 1960s, vibrant new communities, pan-Asian, Pacific Islander, and cross-cultural in make-up, have blossomed. Asian Americans enrich the cultural life of the nation and continue to help write the remarkable story of America.
View the e-comic for the exhibit.
I Want the Wide American Earth: An Asian Pacific American Story was created by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. The exhibition is supported by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Teacher resources courtesy of Teaching Tolerance.
SITES has been sharing the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people outside Washington, DC, since 1952. SITES connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science, and history, which are shown wherever people live, work and play.
The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center provides vision, leadership, and support for Asian and Pacific Islander American initiatives for the Smithsonian Institution and works to better reflect their contributions to the American experience, world culture, and the understanding of our planet and the natural world throughout the Smithsonian Institution collections, research, exhibitions, outreach, and education programs. http://smithsonianapa.org/
Founded in 1991 by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Teaching Tolerance is dedicated to reducing prejudice, improving intergroup relations and supporting equitable school experiences for our nation’s children.
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.