Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities are currently the fastest growing population in Michigan, constituting 31% of the state’s voting population. With a long and rich history stretching back to the 1800’s, when Chinese immigrants first settled in Detroit as business owners, AAPI communities have had a lasting impact on the state’s development and culture throughout the years. Today, Asian Americans in Michigan hail from 19 distinct cultures, with Indian Americans constituting the largest minority group.


Despite such a diverse range of heritages and accomplishments, the histories of Asian American communities in Michigan have remained largely overlooked by mainstream education and media. In 1982, Chinese American Vincent Chin was brutally murdered by two white men in Detroit. Chin’s murder went initially unpunished, sparking outcry from across the country and spurring a brief Asian American civil rights movement in Michigan that eventually led to the arrest of Chin’s murderers. However, conversations around Asian American rights and legacy in the state have greatly died down since then, and are only now once again gaining visibility as a new surge of Anti-Asian violence sweeps the nation in response to the coronavirus pandemic. 


Last month, we took a look back at the challenges AAPI communities have faced across the country historically and pathways to change. Today, in commemoration of Asian American Pacific Islander heritage month, we continue our discussion by celebrating the history and heritage of AAPI communities in Michigan, our home state.


“What does it mean to be Asian American in Michigan?” by Sook Wilkinson and Victor Jew, Stateside

An in-depth look at the history of Asian migration to Michigan and what it means to be a part of the rapidly growing Asian American community in the state today.


“Myths and Legends”, by Dr. Amy Ku’uleialoha Stillman, Tait Sye, and Sungjee Dianne Ro, U-M National Center for Institutional Diversity

Community members from the University of Michigan discuss how the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have defined themselves throughout the years and extended to include Pacific Islanders.



“Asian Americans: The Detroit Story” DPTV (2020)

A multimedia celebration of Detroit’s Asian and Pacific Islander communities, featuring AAPI leaders from across Michigan, including U-M professor Melissa Borja of the Virulent Hate Project.



“12 Metro Detroit Asian American women leaders you should know” by Nargis Rahman, Model D

From state minority floor leader Stephanie Chang to entrepreneurs and nonprofit leaders, a look at the lives and ventures of twelve Asian American women leaders who are shaping the future of Detroit and Michigan.


“Asian American community sees signs of resurgence in Detroit” by Sarah Rahal, The Detroit News

East Asian communities that were once a deeply rooted part of Metro Detroit in the 19th and 20th centuries are hoping to see a resurgence as new educational and economic opportunities arrive.


“Meet one of Detroit’s last Hmong families” by Zak Rosen, Michigan Radio

Michigan once had the fifth largest Hmong communities in the country. The families that remain today discuss their history and what it feels like to be Hmong American in Detroit today.


“How the 1982 Murder of Vincent Chin Ignited a Push for Asian American Rights” Becky Little, History

After Chinese American Vincent Chin was brutally murdered by two of his coworkers, Michigan became the center of an Asian American civil rights movement in the 1980’s.

Learn more | AAPI history and heritage across the nation


“11 Moments from Asian American History That You Should Know” by Paulina Cachero and Olivia Waxman, Time


“Key Facts About Asian origin groups in the U.S.” by Abby Budiman and Neil Ruiz, Pew Research Center


“Asian American history is American history. These AAPI leaders transformed the US for generations to come” by Holly Yan, CNN