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

Beloved Lion Killing Sparks Virtual, Real Life Outrage

Twitter, as usual, was epicenter for anger directed at Palmer, with some questioning his manhood, calling for him to be released into the wild More

Video Booming London Property Market a Haven for Dirty Money

Billions of dollars from proceeds of crime, especially from Russia, being laundered through London property market, according to anti-corruption activists More

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

One former Scout leader thinks organization will move past political, social debate, get back to its primary focus of turning boys into good citizens More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs