News / USA

Project Remembers Chinese Railroad Workers in US Through Descendants

Project Remembers Chinese Railroad Workers in US Through Descendantsi
X
May 14, 2014 4:06 AM
Almost 150 years ago, large numbers of Chinese started working on the U.S. transcontinental railroad, which allowed the United States to become a modern nation. Very little is known, however, about these workers and what happened to them. Stanford University is working on a project to piece together the lives of the Chinese railroad workers by reaching out to their descendants. Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Elizabeth Lee
Next year marks the 150th anniversary of when large numbers of Chinese started working on the transcontinental railroad in the United States. Very little is known about these workers lives and what happened to them after the construction ended. Stanford University is working on a project to piece together the lives of the Chinese railroad workers by reaching out to their descendants.

Desperation and courage could very well describe what led Bill Yee’s ancestors to come to the United States.
 
“I don’t think I could do it to come to a strange country and don’t know a word of English. But I guess it’s between eating or starving. I guess you have to do what you have to do for your family,” said Yee.
 
His ancestors came from southern China, and became a part of key moments in American history.
 
“My great-great-grandfather came over during the gold rush days and he returned back to China as a wealthy man. My great-grandfather came over to work on the railroad. He came over to work with black gunpowder, black powder on the railroad and he died working on the railroad,” said Yee.
 
But that didn’t stop his grandfather from coming to the U.S. on false papers.  He ran a laundry and Yee’s father continued that business.
 
“Things were pretty bad in some parts of China at that time. They came to America at all costs,” Yee said.
 
Shelley Fisher Fishkin wants to hear stories like Yee's. 
 
“The records of specific individuals and their names and experiences are so sparse,” said Fishkin.
 
Fishkin is co-director of the Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project at Stanford University. She is working with scholars in Asia to look for descendants of railroad workers on both continents to reconstruct the lives of these men.
 
“Many of the Chinese workers who came to work on the Transcontinental and other railroads returned to China after their work was done [and] created families there.  Some of them had families who they left when they came here and they may have descendants in China,” said Fishkin.
 
The aim is to create a digital archive of artifacts, documents and oral histories from the railroad worker’s descendants so historians can piece together the mystery of who they were and what happened to them.
 
”The U.S. could not have become the modern industrial nation it did without the railroads and the railroads would not have come together when they did without the crucial work of these Chinese workers,” said Fishkin.
 
Jonathan Wong’s ancestor knew English and left China to work as a translator on the transcontinental railroad. He eventually brought his family to the U.S., and they settled in San Francisco.
 
“He had a [different] experience than having to do labor. He wouldn’t go home feeling that he was going to be in danger the next day. It was a closer relationship with the white community, his white superiors, but obviously I know that he was still treated as if he was the inferior minority,” said Wong.
 
Fishkin said racial issues were a part of life as a Chinese railroad worker.
 
“They suffered greatly from discrimination and from prejudice. They were paid less than their Euro-American workers,” said Fishkin.
 
Bill Yee wants his six children and 19 grandchildren to know their family history.
 
“They have to appreciate the sacrifice that our grandparents did for us otherwise I might be working in the rice fields now. So it really brings a big opportunity to this generation,” said Yee. 
 
Through the Stanford University project, the lives of these men can be remembered, so the role they played in American history will be remembered by their descendants.

You May Like

Ukraine: Russian Forces Tightening Grip on East

And new United Nations report documents human rights abuses committed by both sides in conflict More

Locust Swarms Fill Antananarivo Skies

FAO-led control efforts halted plague More

South Africa’s Plan to Move Rhinos May Not Stop Poaching

Experts say international coordination needed to follow the money trail and bring down rhino horn kingpins More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid