Author Archives: Jamie Patrick-Burns

National Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month 2018

May is National Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, so today we will be highlighting some records and resources on Asian Americans in North Carolina. This is not an exhaustive list of resources, but some ideas of where to start.

Image of Wong Lee's application for citizenship in Durham County, NC in 1940

Wong Lee of China filed for American citizenship in Durham County in 1940. Alien and Naturalization Records. (source)

Asian immigrants were a small but important group in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Alien Registration and Naturalization Records list naturalization records of foreign-born citizens, including many from Asian countries. For example, Chinese immigrant and café owner Wong Lee filed for citizenship on June 17, 1940 in Durham County.[1]

Immigration from Asian nations to North Carolina increased after the Vietnam War, coinciding with the origins of National Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month as Asian-Pacific Heritage Week in 1978. Two post-Vietnam groups of immigrants have received particular recognition. First, many Hmong people of Laos have made their home in the Tar Heel state, particularly in Western North Carolina. A large number fought with the CIA during the conflict, and subsequently fled their country for Thailand and then migrated to the United States. On July 22, 2002, Governor Michael Easley proclaimed Lao-Hmong Recognition Day to honor their contribution to the Vietnam War and their presence in the state.[2] In 2009 North Carolina had the fourth largest population of Lao/Hmong in the United States.[3]

Governor Easley's proclamation of Lao-Hmong Recognition Day in NC, 2002.

Governor Easley’s proclamation of Lao-Hmong Recognition Day on July 22, 2002. Excerpt from Journal of the House of Representatives of the General Assembly, page 218. (source)

A second group of Asian Americans whose North Carolina story began in the aftermath of the Vietnam War are the Dega, also known as Montagnards, the latter term originating from the French colonization of Vietnam to include a variety of tribes and cultures who live in the central highlands of Vietnam. Many also cooperated with the Americans in the war and fled in the 1980s and 1990s to Greensboro, North Carolina. Our state now has the largest Montagnard population outside of Vietnam.[4]

The Department of Cultural Resources (now Department of Natural and Cultural Resources) created a documentary about the Montagnards called “Remembering the King of the Fire” in 1991 (MARS ID 5754.348 in the MARS catalog). A subsequent documentary titled “Living in Exile” was produced in 1995 (director Cheney Hales’ papers are in the Vietnam War Papers, Box 3, of the Military Collection).[5]

Southeast Asian cultures and traditions are now celebrated in ways that engage the wider community, such as cultural heritage events. For example, the North Carolina Folklife Area of the 2016 National Folklife Festival in Greensboro featured Laotian cuisine and textiles, as well as Montagnard dances and music.[6] The event was described on the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources website. The archive of DNCR and other state government websites, including social media, is available online.

Image of archived webpage for 2016 National Folklife Festival in Greensboro, NC.

At the 2016 National Folklife Festival in Greensboro, NC, Montagnard music and dance were featured, as were Laotian food and textiles. Image of archived web page from NCDCR website. (source)

In 1992, National Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Week was extended to a full month. North Carolina’s governors followed suit, issuing proclamations for the month to be celebrated in the state. The proclamations of governors Perdue, Easley, and McCrory are available in the digital collections.

As of 2013, approximately 252,000 Asian Americans called North Carolina their home.[7] Whether you are researching family history and genealogy, interested in North Carolina history, or enjoy learning about the diversity of communities and cultures in the Tar Heel State, take some time to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month this May!

If you want more information or individual research help, please contact our reference staff at archives@ncdcr.gov or (919) 807-7310 and they will be happy to assist you.

What stories of Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage have you found at the State Archives of North Carolina?

Resources

Footnotes

[1] Alien and Naturalization Records, http://digital.ncdcr.gov/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p15012coll13/id/1881/rec/1

[2] Journal of the House of Representatives of the General Assembly of the State of North Carolina, 2002 second session, p. 218 http://digital.ncdcr.gov/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p249901coll22/id/666028/rec/16 (accessed April 25, 2018).

[3] Amy Joyner, “Brand New Tar Heels,” Our State, September 2008, p. 127 http://digital.ncdcr.gov/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p16062coll18/id/100179/rec/48

[4] Amy Joyner, “Brand New Tar Heels,” Our State, September 2008, p. 127 http://digital.ncdcr.gov/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p16062coll18/id/100179/rec/48

[5] https://archives.ncdcr.gov/documents/vietnam-war-papers

[6] “North Carolina Folklife Area Planned for National Folk Festival,” NC Natural and Cultural Resources, July 14, 2016 https://wayback.archive-it.org/194/20170323110706/https://www.ncdcr.gov/press-release/north-carolina-folklife-area-planned-national-folk-festival (accessed April 25, 2018)

[7] Rebecca Tippett, “NC in Focus: Asian Population,” UNC Carolina Population Center – Carolina Demography, May 28, 2015, http://demography.cpc.unc.edu/2015/05/28/nc-in-focus-asian-population/ (accessed April 25, 2018).

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Hispanic Heritage Month 2017

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, we will be highlighting a few records from the State Archives regarding Hispanic populations, a growing proportion of North Carolina’s residents. The United States first began celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month in 1988, a development which coincided with a marked increase in the Latino population in North Carolina. To be sure, there were residents of Hispanic heritage in the state long before then, dating back to interactions with Spanish colonies and the Spanish government in the eighteenth century, and influxes of immigrants in subsequent centuries. The population has grown more rapidly since the 1980s, initially fueled by migrants coming for seasonal farm work. Many came from Mexico and Central America, but the majority moved to North Carolina from other states in the US.[1] Three decades later, they are the fastest growing minority group in North Carolina, and more Latinos have been born in the state than immigrated. In 2010, the Hispanic population was approximately 800,000 or 8.4% of the state’s population.[2]

Page from Alamance County Alien Registration Records, 1940

“Alamance County: Alien, Naturalization and Registration Records: Alien Registration Record,” State Archives of North Carolina. The left page is the record of Leopold Riloba y Ruiloba from Havana, Cuba, filed August 6, 1940.

The State Archives and the State Library of North Carolina have several collections which document the experiences of Hispanic residents. The Spanish Records are copies of eighteenth century colonial records from the Papeles de Cuba at the Archivo General de Indias, the Archivo General de Simanacas, and the Archivo Historico Nacional and Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid that pertain to the southeastern colonies and North Carolina, documenting the state’s early history from the perspective of the Spanish colonial government. The Alien Registration and Naturalization Records contain county records relating to the naturalization of foreign-born citizens, including Hispanic immigrants, and often include pictures, country of origin, family names, and profession. They provide a snapshot into the lives of many people who chose to make North Carolina their home in the first half of the twentieth century, such as Leopoldo Riloba y Ruiloba, a cotton mill worker who came from Havana, Cuba to Alamance County in 1940 with his four children.

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For more recent information, modern governors’ records include proclamations and executive orders. In 1998, Governor Jim Hunt issued Executive Order 136 to create the Governor’s Advisory Council on Hispanic/Latino Affairs. He also started the Office of Hispanic/Latino Affairs to coordinate state programs to serve the Latino community, including migrant health, cultural diversity, community forums, and domestic violence training. Records from Governors Easley and Purdue include proclamations to observe Hispanic Heritage Month and documentation of the Office of Hispanic/Latino Affairs. In 2013, under Governor Pat McCrory, the office of Hispanic/Latino affairs was absorbed into the Community and Constituent Affairs Office, which serves as the point of contact for all constituents.

Hispanic Heritage Month proclamation by Gov. Bev Perdue, 2012

Hispanic Heritage Month proclamation by Governor Bev Perdue, 2012.

Other publications show state agencies’ desires to tailor their services to North Carolina’s changing constituency. For example, in 2001 the Department of Labor created a volunteer Hispanic Task Force to “identify the unique safety and health hazards that the state’s Hispanic population faces in the workplace and to determine what measures DOL could undertake to reduce fatalities and injuries among Hispanic workers.”[3] In 2006, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety conducted a study to improve services to Hispanic residents, such as providing language assistance to individuals with limited fluency in English.[4]

This is only a small sample of North Carolina records that point to the rich and interwoven stories of our state’s Hispanic heritage. You can explore our full digital collections here, or search finding aids and the online catalog to begin exploring non-digitized records. If you need assistance, our reference staff are happy to help! They can be reached by emailing them at archives@ncdcr.gov.

What have you found out about Hispanic heritage in the state archives?

 

[1] Alan K. Lamm, “Latinos,” NCPedia, 2006, accessed October 5, 2017, https://www.ncpedia.org/latinos.

[2] Gabriela Zabala and Steven Mann, “Demographic Trends of Hispanics/Latinos in North Carolina,” 2012, accessed October 5, 2017, http://worldview.unc.edu/files/2012/04/4-0-1.pdf.

[3] “2001 Annual Report of the N.C. Department of Labor” (North Carolina Department of Labor, 2001), 10, http://digital.ncdcr.gov/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p249901coll22/id/21346/rec/6.

[4] Keith Dowd and Erin Collins, “New North Carolinians: Doing Justice for All in the Criminal Justice System: Providing Services to a Rising Hispanic and Latino Population in North Carolina” (North Carolina Governor’s Crime Commission and Criminal Justice Analysis Center, 2006), 22, http://digital.ncdcr.gov/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p249901coll22/id/9522/rec/1.