In the United States, Filipino American History Month is celebrated annually in October. It was established by the Filipino American National Historical Society in 1988, inspired by activist Dr. Fred Cordova’s 1983 book Filipinos: Forgotten Asian Americans. The text highlighted the ways in which Filipino Americans have been rendered invisible in American history.
Although Filipino Americans were among the first peoples of Asian descent to arrive in the U.S. in 1857, very little had been written about Filipino Americans or the Philippines despite America’s long history with the country.i A history that includes the Philippine-American War, American colonization from 1899-1946, and much of World War II being fought in the Philippines.
When the field of Asian American studies emerged in the 1960s and 1970s at institutions of higher education across the country, most literature and research focused on the experiences of East Asian Americans, particularly those with Chinese and Japanese ancestry. Arguably, the contributions of Filipino Americans to culture and society are still not properly acknowledged, though they make up the second-largest Asian American ethnic group, comprising about 1 out of every 5 Asian Americans.ii
- Filipino Americans contributed greatly to the American Labor Movement, especially with the United Farm Workers Movement of the 1960s.
- Filipino Americans have unique experiences with racism. Studies demonstrate that they experience a range of racial microaggressions, including being misperceived as belonging to other racial/ethnic groups, such as the Latinx, Black, or Pacific Islander communities. Many report struggling with having to navigate “not being Asian enough” by both Asian-Americans and the larger society.iii
- Many Filipino Americans choose not to identify as Asian or Asian American due to a history of exclusion. Research shows that this is attributed to many having darker skin and feeling marginalized in the larger Asian American community. Further, research also suggests that some Filipino Americans identify more with Latinx or Black communities.
- California has the largest Filipino American population.
How to Commemorate Filipino American Heritage Month
Dr. Sierra Austin is a graduate of the Department of Women's and Gender Studies at The Ohio State University, with a focus on race and social justice. Sierra's research (done in our member district Columbus City Schools), activism, work focused on education equity and prioritizes operationalizing intersectional approaches to social change. She offers professional development through the ESC focused on equity, consultation, and community workshops.