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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More