“The estimated 12,000 Chinese immigrant labourers who worked on the building of the first transcontinental railway in the United States were finally recognised for their work on Friday as they were inducted into the US Labour Department’s Hall of Honour.”
May 2014: “Chinese Railway Workers Inducted in US Labor Department’s Hall of Honor” (Voice of America)
“This year marks the 145th anniversary of the completion of the U.S. Transcontinental Railroad. The 3,200 kilometers of rail, constructed between 1863 and 1869, finally linked the eastern United States to the western part of the country.”
Deputy Secretary of Labor Christopher Lu discusses the induction of Chinese railroad workers into the U.S. Department of Labor’s Hall of Honor.
“East finally met West 145 years ago on America’s first transcontinental railroad.”
Gordon H. Chang and Shelley Fisher Fishkin published an essay in Forbes Asia recounting the history of the Chinese railroad workers, their accomplishments and the many ways they were excluded or ignored. They concluded the essay by placing the importance of understanding this history within the current context: “Today, as anxiety and concern often cloud the developing economic and social relationship between the United States and China, it would be useful for us to recall this dramatic episode in history when Chinese helped to build America.”
On May 9th the Department of Labor inducted the Chinese railroad workers into the Labor Hall of Honor in Washington, D.C. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez, Deputy Secretary Christopher P. Liu, descendants of the railroad workers (including Connie Young Yu, Sandra Lee, Carolyn Kuhn) and other special guests joined in the ceremony at the Labor Department headquarters to coincide with the 145thanniversary of the Golden Spike ceremony. (The Chinese Railroad Workers Project has recorded oral histories with Yu, Lee and Kuhn for the Digital Archive).
More information about the event can be found here
Chinese Historical Society of America produced a video of excerpts from the ceremony, which can be viewed here
Below is a video of the entire ceremony:
“The construction of the Transcontinental Railroad that linked the east and west coasts of the United States is a triumphant tale of tenacity and technological achievement that is studied by every American schoolchild.”
In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Month, President Obama issued a proclamation acknowledging the contributions of Chinese railroad workers, the first federal recognition of its kind:
This month marks 145 years since the final spike was hammered into the transcontinental railroad, an achievement made possible by Chinese laborers, who did the majority of this backbreaking and dangerous work. This May, they will receive long-overdue recognition as they are inducted into the Labor Hall of Honor.
The complete proclamation can be foundhere
Various Chinese newspapers reported on the Chinese Railroad Workers Project in December 2013.
In 2012, Beijing-based photographer Li Ju travelled the route of the Central Pacific railroad, documenting through photographs, what the places captured by nineteenth-century photographer Alfred Hart look like today. He reported on his trip in blogs written in Chinese that he posted in 2012 and discussed his trip with Project members at Stanford shortly after its completion.
“Between 1865 and 1869, thousands of Chinese migrants toiled at a grueling pace and in perilous working conditions to help construct America’s First Transcontinental Railroad.”