President Joe Biden signed a law Monday that lays the foundation for a National Museum of Asian Pacific American History and Culture.
“Today, I’m honored to sign into law something that is long overdue — the National Museum of Asian Pacific American History and Culture, here in Washington, D.C.,” Biden said.
The law creates the Commission to Study the Potential Creation of a National Museum of Asian Pacific American History and Culture Act, which will research and submit a plan that would establish a museum dedicated to the community in Washington, D.C.
“This is a story about heroes who shaped our nation for the better,” Vice President Kamala Harris said during the press conference. “From the South Asian Americans who transformed farming up and down the pacific coast to the Japanese Americans who defended our freedom during WWII to the Chinese American garment workers who marched through the streets of New York City 40 years ago to win better pay and benefits for all workers."
She said the museum would also include some of the darkest moments of American history, including the Chinese Exclusion Act, the internment of Japanese Americans, the murder of Vincent Chin, discrimination against South Asian Americans after 9/11 and the increased violence against Asian Americans during the pandemic.
Biden acknowledged the one-year anniversary of the Atlanta spa shootings and the 80th anniversary of the incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II.
He told the story of his friend, Daniel Inouye, a late senator from Hawaii and war veteran. Inouye, who was Japanese American, had to fight to enlist in the military, Biden said. He served in the segregated 442nd Regimental Combat Team during WWII.
“It’s clear that the battle for the soul of America continues. That’s why a museum like this is going to matter so much. Museums of this magnitude and consequence are going to inspire and educate,” he said. “More than anything else, it’s going to help people see themselves in the story of America, a story that makes us better Americans.”
The commission will be made up of eight people with backgrounds in museum planning or Asian Pacific American history and culture. They would help develop plans to fundraise and acquire general information before submitting a plan to Congress to move forward with the museum.
The legislation, which was co-sponsored by 120 Democrats and Republicans, passed the House unanimously in April, allowing for the museum’s establishment.
Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., the House legislation’s sponsor, thanked the president for signing the bill.