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Governor Quinn to Celebrate 150 years of Illinois Asian American Heritage

Press Release - Tuesday, May 14, 2013

CHICAGO - Governor Quinn today announced that a free exhibit celebrating 150 years of Illinois' Asian American Heritage will be on display at the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago from May 20-24. The free exhibit - organized as part of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month - will feature displays prepared by some of Illinois' leading Asian American cultural institutions.

"People from Asian nations have called Illinois home for 150 years, and we celebrate the rich heritage they have brought to our state," Governor Quinn said. "I invite all residents to visit this inspiring exhibit and to reflect upon the significant contributions made by Asian Americans to Illinois' cultural tapestry."

Contributors to the governor's exhibit include the Chinese American Museum of Chicago, Korean Cultural Center, South Asian American Policy and Research Institute, Japanese American Service Committee, Japanese American Citizens League, Cambodian American Heritage Museum and Killing Fields Memorial, Alliance of Filipinos for Immigration Rights and Empowerment, Lao American Organization of Elgin and others.

Illinois Asian American residents first appear in the 1870 Census, though Chinese immigrants reportedly lived in Cook, McHenry and Morgan counties years before. In the 1890s, Japanese immigrants arrived, followed by Filipino, Korean and Indian immigrants. Illinois is now home to people with roots in Pakistan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Tibet, Nepal, Taiwan, Burma (Myanmar), Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Malaysia. People of Asian heritage now comprise five percent of the state's population.

Asians have taken many different routes to Illinois. For example, many came in the 19th century as railroad workers. Many also arrived after World War II, the Chinese Revolution or the Korean Conflict. In the 1960s, South Asian and Filipino students began enrolling in Illinois universities. From 1975 to 1985, refugees fleeing Communist takeovers in Vietnam and Laos, as well as survivors of the Cambodian Killing Fields made their way to Chicago's Uptown neighborhood.

For more information on Governor Quinn's celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, contact Theresa Mah at or 312-814-0984.

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