Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month: Primary Sources

By Chella Vaidyanathan, European/world history librarian and Erica Bruchko, US history librarian 

We become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams. – Jimmy Carter

Nothing is more exciting as the process of unearthing the past to understand and appreciate the beauty and richness of our multicultural and multi-ethnic society. May is the national Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, during which we celebrate the history and culture of Asian Pacific Americans and their contributions to our country. This blog post showcases several kinds of digital primary sources, created by and for Asian Pacific American communities, which encompasses the life experiences of a broad spectrum of people.

A multi-generational portrait of a Korean-American family in San Francisco.


Published Diaries, Letters, Memoirs & Autobiographies

Are you interested in checking out the published memoirs and diaries of Asian Pacific Americans in Emory’s collection? Please search our catalog, discoverE. You can search by ethnicity (Filipino American, Vietnamese American, Chinese American, Indian American, etc.) alongside the keywords diary, letters, memoir, and autobiography. Some examples are:

Oral Histories

If you would like to learn about the experiences of the various Asian Pacific American communities in the United States, the following collections of oral histories offer a glimpse into their daily lives.

Visual Materials,_Kei_Okami,_and_Tabat_M._Islambooly.jpg

Audio-visual resources make history come alive and help tell compelling stories about Asian Pacific American communities. Apart from documents, personal papers, newspaper clippings, many primary source databases often contain an image category with photographs, posters, drawings, etc. The following are a few examples:

Community & Organizational Records

Databases contain the records of community organizations and Asian American advocacy groups. Here are some select examples from Emory’s primary source databases:

Asian Student Union Records, UC Berkeley. The Rock and Roll, Counterculture, Peace and Protest (Adam Matthew) database contains records of Asian American student organizing at Berkeley in the 1970s. You can find additional materials related to the Asian American experience by searching across multiple Adam Matthew Databases with the search engine Archive Explorer.

Asian Americans for Community Involvement Records. Founded in 1973 and still in operation, Asian Americans for Community Involvement (AACI) worked to improve the health, mental health, and well-being of individuals and their families by providing an array of human services. The Archives of Sexuality and Gender (Gale) database contains pamphlets form the 1990s related to the AIDS epidemic and the Asian American community. You can find additional materials related to the Asian American experience by searching across multiple Gale Databases with Artemis Primary Sources. To learn about other primary source databases, please check out our Asian American Studies LibGuide 

Newspapers & Print Media

Asian and Pacific American newspapers have played an important role in creating and sustaining Asian American communities in the United States. Papers such as the long-running International Examiner from Seattle Washington and the widely circulating AsianWeek from San Francisco spoke to Asian Americans’ experiences in the United States and also offered news related to residents countries of origin. In addition, papers played an activist role in supporting Asian Americans and pushing against stereotypes present in white dominated media sources. As AsianWeek editor James Fang explained, his newspaper “acted as a forum in advocating for those Asian Americans who were defenseless and voiceless in the face of an uncaring power.” “Whether it was in bringing much-needed national and decisive exposure…[to events] or demanding justice [for Asian American actors],” the strength of the newspaper was “its unequivocal eagerness to support our community.”, Utah. Masomi Yano, former newspaper worker on a Japanese language newspaper in San Francisco


To learn about other news databases, please check out our Asian American Studies LibGuide

If you would like to learn more about these resources, please contact Erica Bruchko and Chella Vaidyanathan.

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