Asian American Milestones

1848: First Chinese immigrants arrive in San Francisco. They provide essential labor for the Gold Rush and later are instrumental in building the transcontinental railroad, completed in 1869.

1870: Naturalization Act excludes Chinese from citizenship and prohibits wives of Chinese laborers from entering the U.S.

1871: In Los Angeles’ Chinatown, the first of many anti-Chinese riots breaks out. A mob hangs 15 Chinese and shoots four more to death.

1910: Naturalization Act of 1870 is expanded to exclude all Asians from citizenship.


1913: The California Alien Land Act, aimed at Japanese farmers, bars anyone ineligible for U.S. citizenship from purchasing land. The California Supreme Court rules the act unconstitutional in 1952.

1922: Under the U.S. Cable Act, any woman marrying an immigrant ineligible for naturalization will lose her citizenship.

1942: After Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, a presidential order forces internment of more than 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry.

1943: Public response to China as a World War II ally prompts Congress to repeal ban on Chinese immigration and naturalization.


1946: Filipinos and Asian Indians become eligible for naturalization; Japanese immigrants follow in 1952.

1948: The U.S. government passes an act allowing former Japanese American internees to file claims against the government for financial losses.

1956: Dalip Singh Saund, of Asian Indian descent, is elected to Congress from a district in the Imperial Valley and serves three terms.

1957: The New Adventures of Charlie Chan, the first show featuring an Asian American character in a title role, comes to U.S. television for 39 episodes. The role of Chan, based on real-life police detective Chang Apana, is played by Irish American actor J. Carrol Naish.


1959: Hiram Fong of Hawaii becomes first Asian American elected to the U.S. Senate, followed by fellow Hawaiian Daniel Inouye in 1962.

1965: Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 abolishes national origin quotas and substitutes hemispheric quotas, allowing many more Asians to immigrate to the U.S.

1968: Asian American students join blacks and Latinos in protesting lack of ethnic studies at San Francisco State. Other protests follow at Berkeley and elsewhere. Acting San Francisco State President S.I. Hayakawa, is later elected to U.S. Senate.

1975: A wave of Southeast Asian immigration is touched off when U.S. troops withdraw from Vietnam in 1972 and communist governments come into power.


1980: U.S. census shows the Asian/Pacific American population at 3.5 million, or 1.5% of the total U.S. population.

1982: Amid controversy, Vietnam Veterans Memorial designed by architect and sculptor Maya Lin is dedicated in Washington, D.C.

1988: Congress passes bill publicly apologizing for internment of Japanese Americans and authorizing payment of $20,000 to each eligible former internee.

1993: Connie Chung of CBS becomes the first Asian American to co-anchor a television network news show.


1996: Gary Locke is elected governor of Washington state, the first Asian American to head a mainland U.S. state.

1997: A dozen Asian Americans become enmeshed in widening scandal arising from fund-raising during the 1996 presidential election.

Compiled by Times researcher Jacquelyn Cenacveira

Sources: “Asian American Chronology,” “Asian Americans: An Interperative History,” Times files