Asian Americans


About the Series

Asian Americans delivers a bold, new perspective on the Asian American experience that will surprise, move and inspire audiences. The five-part documentary series from PBS traces the epic story of Asian Americans, spanning 150 years of immigration, racial politics, international relations and cultural innovation. It is a timely, clear-eyed look at the vital role that Asian Americans have played in defining who we are as a nation. As the United States is rapidly becoming more diverse, but also more divided, how do we move forward together? 

Through the lens of the country’s fastest growing population,Asian Americans illuminates the way one group of Americans, who were long excluded and considered outsiders, have pursued two visions of the American Dream: one of opportunity and a better life, but also the pursuit of ideals of equality and a more perfect union. Their stories are a celebration of the grit and resilience of a people that reflects the experience of all Americans. 


Episode Descriptions

Monday, May 11, 2020 • 8:00 – 10:00 PM ET

Episode 1: Breaking Ground
In an era of U.S. expansion, new immigrants arrive from China, India, Japan, the Philippines and beyond. Eventually barred by anti-Asian laws, and become America’s first “undocumented immigrants.” Yet they build railroads, take their fight for equality to the U.S. Supreme Court, and dazzle on the silver screen.

Episode 2: A Question of Loyalty
An American-born generation straddles their country of birth and their familial homelands in Asia. Family loyalties are tested during World War II, when Japanese Americans are imprisoned in detention camps, and brothers find themselves on opposite sides of the battle lines. For Koreans and other Asian Americans, joining the U.S. war effort also means the fight for independence in Asia.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020 • 8:00 – 11:00 PM ET

Episode 3: Good Americans
During the Cold War years, Asian Americans are simultaneously heralded as a Model Minority, and suspected as the perpetual foreigner. It is also a time of bold ambition, as Asian Americans aspire for the first time to national political office, and an emerging culture-quake rises to the surface.

Episode 4: Generation Rising
During a time of war and social tumult, a young generation fights for equality in the fields, on campuses and in the culture, and claim a new identity: Asian Americans. The aftermath of the Vietnam War brings new immigrants and refugees who expand the definition of Asian America.

Episode 5: Breaking Through
At the turn of the millennium, Asian Americans have become the fastest growing population in the U.S. It is a time of tremendous change, as the country tackles urgent debates over immigration, race and economic disparity. Asian Americans, newly empowered by growing numbers and rising influence, must navigate their role in the American future.

[Note: The producers would like to note a correction on Episode 5. The Korean headline text which was translated to “Two Black Robbers Kill Korean American Woman” is incorrect. The corrected headline with accompanying translation can be found here. ]


Asian Americans is a production of WETA Washington, DC and the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) for PBS, in association with the Independent Television Service (ITVS), Flash Cuts and Tajima-Peña Productions. The series executive producers are Jeff Bieber for WETA; Stephen Gong and Donald Young for CAAM; Sally Jo Fifer for ITVS; and Jean Tsien. The series producer is Renee Tajima-Peña. The producer for Flash Cuts is Eurie Chung. The episode producers are S. Leo Chiang, Geeta Gandbhir and Grace Lee. The consulting producer is Mark Jonathan Harris. Engagement and Education Partner is Asian Americans Advancing Justice. Project Director for Education Curriculum is Pat Kwoh, Project Executive is Stewart Kwoh.

Major funding for Asian Americans is provided by Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), Wallace H. Coulter Foundation, Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), Ford Foundation/JustFilms, National Endowment for the Humanities, The Freeman Foundation, The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Kay Family Foundation, Long Family Foundation, Spring Wang and California Humanities.