May is designated as Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month in the US, and this blog post provides an overview of its history, the theme for 2021, and activities and events to commemorate “the contributions that generations of AAPIs have made to American history, society, and culture.”


In 1978, Congress passed a joint resolution that became Pub.L.95-419, and “directed the President to issue a proclamation designating the week beginning on May 4, 1979 as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week.” The observance was extended from one week to one month in 1990, and in 1992,  Pub.L.102-450 “permanently designated May of each year as “’Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month.’” Beginning in 2009, “presidents have expanded the commemoration to include Pacific Islanders and the proclamations have been issued in honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.”


The US Census Bureau has compiled the following demographic information based on statistics for 2019:

  • There were an estimated 22.9 million “Asian alone-or-in-combination residents in the United States.”

  • The largest Asian group in the United States was people of “Chinese, except Taiwanese, descent,” with an estimated population of 5.2 million.

  • There were an estimated 1.6 million “Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone-or-in-combination residents of the United States.”

In addition, there is an infographic based on 2018 data that breaks down the Asian and Pacific Islander Population in the United States by group based on descent.

2021 Theme

The 2021 theme for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is “Advancing Leaders Through Purpose-Driven Service,” which “is the start of the new theme series for 2021-2024 highlighting FAPAC’s efforts in ‘Advancing Leaders.’” According to the Federal Asian Pacific American Council (FAPAC) press release announcing the theme, “Purpose-driven service creates a positive culture of intimacy, empowers leaders who believe in leading with values, offers frequent encouragement and feedback, and puts employees first.”

In addition, “Employees and leaders who are driven by purpose . . . . are focused on a bigger mission to make the world a better place and to create a brighter future for everyone.  When purpose and passion are combined with core organizational values, the exponential impact is powerful for the entire community.”

Ways to Commemorate

Looking for ways to learn more? Check out these great options: