News / USA

Chinese Railway Workers Inducted in US Labor Department's Hall of Honor

This year marks the 145th anniversary of the completion of the U.S. Transcontinental Railroad. Chinese labor played a large role.
This year marks the 145th anniversary of the completion of the U.S. Transcontinental Railroad. Chinese labor played a large role.
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.
 
Last week, the Chinese immigrants who worked on that railroad were honored by being registered in the U.S. Department of Labor's Hall of Honor in Washington, D.C. The more than 12,000 Chinese laborers are the first Asian-Americans to be inducted into the Hall since its creation in 1988.
 
At the ceremony Friday, Labor Department Deputy Secretary Chris Lu said by sharing the story of the Chinese immigrants who worked on the Transcontinental Railroad, people are reminded that the U.S. has benefited from wave after wave of industrious immigrants.
 
Lu said in immigrant families there’s a special place of honor for those who do things first.
 
“So for the community of 18 million Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders in this country, the Chinese railroad workers are part of our first,” said Lu. “They pushed open a door so that generations could follow them. The story of their successes has been missing in history for far too long and that is why we honor them today."
 
Chinese-American historian Connie Young Yu, who spoke at the Department of Labor Hall of Honor induction ceremony, told the story of her great-grandfather, Lee Wong Sang, who worked on the railroad. At a separate event over the weekend at the Chinese Community Church in Washington, Yu said she was honored to represent all of the railroad workers' descendants at the ceremony.
 
"You know it's a great celebration and we're supposed to be so excited about having the word ‘Chinese’ on the Hall of Honor,” said Yu. “But it's also a sober reminder of what happened in our history."
 
Sue Lee, executive director of the Chinese Historical Society of America, said the induction was the long overdue recognition the Chinese laborers on the Transcontinental Railroad deserved. She said it's emotionally important for the Chinese-American community to receive that recognition and a reminder of their pioneering history.
 
"The importance and the significance of those early Chinese in the face of racism and barriers and continuing discrimination throughout the time, even after the railroad work finished, they couldn't find [a] job, it was hard to settle down in communities. Chinese women weren't allowed in this country, they couldn't start families," said Lee. "So despite all that, the Chinese community survived and when immigration laws changed in 1968, this new population, our newcomers are learning about the legacy of the work of these pioneering railroad workers."
 
Lee said even though the Transcontinental Railroad was built 145 years ago, there are many lessons even young Chinese-Americans can take away from the stories of the railroad workers. She said the opportunities that young people have today are all thanks to the legacy of those early pioneers.
 
"And we hope, as the Chinese Historical Society, that young people are inspired hearing about the ceremony and that they delve into their own history because you never know, there are people even today that are discovering for the first time that their families had some connection to those early railroad workers," said Lee. "So we have our own history to piece together and to rediscover."
 
Russell Gong, 24, said what he has learned from the celebrations is the idea of being able to build from the passion of the railway workers.
 
"I think what's more exciting is the people around those individuals, that family unit, and ultimately their ancestors, are still talking about that passion and energy building," said Gong. "I think that's the exciting thing... when we, as people, create... What that really means beyond the structures that we build."
 
The Chinese immigrant railroad workers join a distinguished list of contributors to the field of labor in the Labor Hall of Honor. Other inductees include industrialist Henry J. Kaiser, labor leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez and the rescue workers who responded to the terrorist attacks in New York City on September 11, 2001.

You May Like

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs