MILWAUKEE — Wisconsin public school students will now be required to learn Asian American history, including that of the Hmong community, as part of a new bill signed April 4 by Gov. Tony Evers.

What You Need To Know

  • Governor Evers signed new legislation requiring Asian American history be taught in public schools

  • Move is being praised by some Hmong leaders

  • Supporters hope it will foster better understanding of Hmong history and culture

Wisconsin has around 50,000 Hmong residents, the third highest population in the United States, behind California and Minnesota.

The new education requirement is being praised by many leaders in the Hmong community. Amoun Sayaovong works with Milwaukee’s Hmong American Friendship Association.

Sayaovong said it will make a big impact for cultural understanding.

“We really appreciate Governor Evers allowing the history of Asian Americans to be put in the history books; that would teach a lot of the kids in Wisconsin about why the Hmong are here,” said Sayaovong.

Hmong soldiers served as allies of the U.S. during the Vietnam War, and after facing persecution, many fled as refugees. Wisconsin was among the states that lead the effort in accepting Hmong refugees. The first wave of Hmong immigrants arrived in the late 1970s.

Chia Vang is a professor of history and serves as the Hmong diaspora studies program chair at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Vang is also a vice chancellor of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Vang said she often encounters students at the university level who know little about Hmong history and Asian American history. She said she hopes teaching them that history at an earlier age will make a difference. In addition, she said she hopes it will improve visibility.

“It is a big improvement in terms of representation,” said Vang. “Having those of us who look like me, that we actually see ourselves in history books. Growing up I didn’t have that privilege, but now I hope that young people, not just Hmong or Asian Americans students, that other students come away with understanding the long presence of Asian Americans in this state.”

While a requirement to teach Asian American history is new, other history instruction requirements already exist in the state. Wisconsin public schools are already required to teach the history of Black Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans.