Unsettling the Pages of US History: The Filipino American Experience
Before the founding of America, even before the settlement of Jamestown, there were Filipinos in what is now known as the continental United States.
Throughout history, Filipino Americans have led movements, confronted injustices, and created world-shaking ideas. They disrupt. So why is their history largely untold?
Filipino Americans: A History Erased
It is a fact that Filipino Americans have been in the United States for centuries. In 1898, the United States entered into war against Spain and took possession of the Philippines, paying Spain $20 million to rationalize colonization.
American officials referred to this as benevolent assimilation, claiming to protect Filipinos’ rights and liberties. But the Filipino people, who were already fighting for independence from Spain, resisted the US. Colonization.
This was known as the Philippine-American War, fought with extreme violence, which led to the displacement of many Filipinos.
Filipino Americans: A Major Source of Cheap Labor
Because of the Philippines’ colonial status, the people became a major source of cheap labor, and so Filipinos migrated to Hawaii as early as 19 six to work in sugar plantations.
By the 1920s, many Filipino laborers also came to the West Coast to become a driving force behind America’s agricultural industry. But many of these labor migrants were met with racial hostility.
Filipino Americans: Persevering Despite Adversity
White Americans accused Filipino men of stealing their jobs, and women Filipinos faced down mobs, beatings, and murder. Yet they resisted suppression. Filipino towns such as Stockton’s Little Manila were formed as safe havens up and down the West Coast.
Labor strikes demanded fair wages and working conditions. Under pressure, Congress greatly restricted the migration of Filipinos and promised independence for the Philippines.
Filipino Americans: An Integral Part of American History
Filipino Americans fought alongside Americans in World War II and were granted citizenship as a result.
However, the passing of the 1946 rescission act broke the promise of citizenship for many Filipino veterans. American military bases remained in the Philippines, recruiting Filipinos.
Many of these navy sailors came to America, and Filipino women married to US military men also migrated to the US, raising families, buying land, and creating communities.
Filipino Americans: Disruptors and Innovators
In the 1960s, Filipino Americans fought for equality alongside the black civil movement and Chicano movements. Larry Itliong and the manongs, led a strike against a grape farm, convincing Cesar Chavez and his association to join the strike.
Together with Latinos, who were mostly Mexicans, they had one of the most successful strikes against agribusiness in history.
The younger generation also revolted, leading a strike that established ethnic studies. Many other groups organized to serve the Filipino American community.
Filipino Americans: The Need for Our Story
There are now over 4 million Filipinos in the United States. FAWN, the Filipino American National Historical Society, tells the stories of the Filipino American experience.
Established in 182 by Dorothy LIGO Cordova and Fred Cordova, FAWN saw the value in documenting Filipino American history, honoring October as Filipino American History Month.
Filipino Americans continue to persevere for a just and prosperous society, inspiring us as sports heroes, public servants, and creative artists.
An Integral Part of American History
The history of Filipino Americans is an integral part of American history, but it has been largely untold. Through adversity and injustice, Filipinos have continued to persevere, disrupt, and innovate.
It is time to unsettle the pages of US history and tell the stories of the Filipino American experience. As we make history, we must also tell it to the world.