Individuals from Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific island communities have played and continue to play an important role in shaping our nation – from advocating for changes in labor laws to popularizing the sport of surfing. However, the stories of many of these individuals and their accomplishments often remain unspoken and uneducated.
In this post, we are highlighting the legacy of some inspiring person that you and your students may not be familiar with. While this is by no means an exhaustive list, use it as a starting point to bring some more history into your classroom.
8 Students should know about Asians, Pacific Islanders, and local Hawaiian people
Learn more about some of the most influential American heroes whose contributions have made their mark on the world as we know them.
Duke Kahanamoku, father of modern surfing (1890-1968)
Duke Paa Kahinu Moko Hulikohola Kahanamoku was a competitive swimmer and a leading figure in the world of sports. Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, Kahanamoku was a five-time Olympic medalist in swimming. After his record-breaking and disruptive athletic career, Kahanamoku helped make Surfing’s Hawaiian sport popular with a new generation of surfers around the world.
Dalip Singh Saund, Politician (1899-1973)
Born and raised in Punjab, Dalip Singh Sound enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley in 1920 and earned a PhD in mathematics. In the 1940s, he organized a successful attempt to persuade the US Congress to pass the Lous-Sellar Act of 1946, which gave Indian immigrants the right to become American citizens. After becoming a citizen himself, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1956, becoming the first Asian American and the first Sikh to serve in Congress. During his three terms in office, he was a champion of smallholder farmers and civil rights law and worked to improve U.S. relations with India and Mexico.
Larry Italion, Labor leader (1913-1977)
Larry Italione was a Filipino-American organizer and community leader who played a key role in the agricultural labor movement. He was best known for leading the Delano Grape Strike in the 1960’s and for teaming up with Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. The five-year strike was one of the most important labor movements in U.S. history, ultimately leading to better wages and benefits for agricultural workers and the formation of the United Farm Workers. The state of California officially celebrates October 25 as “Larry Italing Day” to fight for his legacy of social and economic justice.
Isabella Ayona Abbott, Marine Biologist (1919-2010)
In her long and successful career as a scientist, writer and university professor, Dr. Isabella Ayona Abbott has broken many barriers. She is considered the first local Hawaiian to receive a PhD in science, and was the first woman and first person to become a full professor in the Department of Biology at Stanford University. Throughout his career, he sought to uncover historical uses for seaweed and to find ways to reintroduce seaweed into everyday life. He is credited with discovering more than 200 different algae species, many of which were named after him. After teaching at Stanford for more than two decades, he retired and began a second career as a professor of botany at the University of Hawaii.
Patsy Mink, Politician (1927-2002)
Patsy Matsu Takemoto Mink is a third generation Japanese American, born and raised on the island of Maui. When Hawaii became a state in 1959, Mink decided to run for a seat in the US House of Representatives. Although her first congressional campaign bid failed, she ran and won again in 1964, making her the first black woman and the first Asian-American woman to serve in Congress. During her years in the House, she was instrumental in drafting bills such as the Title IX (which prohibited gender discrimination in higher education), the Early Childhood Education Act, and the Women’s Educational Equality Act.
Michelle Yeh, actress (born 1962)
Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh is best known for her martial-art-infused role in the film. Born into a wealthy Malaysian family, Yeh initially pursued a career as a ballerina before being crowned Miss Malaysia in 1983. In the years that followed, she emerged as one of the top female action stars in the film industry, gaining international attention for her performances in blockbuster films. Tomorrow Never Dies And Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. His recent performance Crazy rich Asian And Everything Everything is at At Hollywood has contributed to a wave of films highlighting Asian-American talent.
Cecilia Chung, civil rights activist (born 1965)
Cecilia Chung is an internationally recognized civil rights leader and advocate for social justice. Born in Hong Kong, Chung moved to San Francisco as a teenager. Through her advocacy and philanthropic work, she has established herself as a leading voice in the fight against discrimination, transgender rights, and HIV / AIDS education and awareness.
Jhumpa Lahiri, author (born 1967)
Jhumpa Lahiri is an award-winning author whose work has been widely acclaimed for her experiences of East Indian immigrants. In 1999, he made his debut in the publishing scene with a collection of short stories, Interpreter of Maladis, And won the Pulitzer Prize. She followed her first novel in 2003, Naming, And back to the short story with # 1 New York Times Sold out Accustomed world. His novel, Lowlands, Was partly inspired by real-world political events and was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Prize for Fiction. Since moving to Italy in 2011, he has published two books of essays and a novel in Italian, and translated some of his own writings and those of other Italian writers into English.
If you would like to read more about the people in this post (or research more people from the Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific island communities!), Visit these websites:
And for more ways to incorporate the history and heritage of Asian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific island communities into your year-round lesson plan, check out this blog post.