Monday, May 18, 2020

Chinese Railroad Workers

In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, here is some more information about some famous Asian Americans that you might not know much about.

Construction began on the transcontinental railroad in 1863 and was a 1912-mile line between America’s west and east coast. It was finished in 1869 and built by three private companies over public lands. Even though thousands of European immigrants worked on the Pacific Union rail heading west, there weren’t enough men to build the Central Pacific line. This line went through the rugged Rocky and Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Central Pacific hired 50 Chinese laborers to lay down railroad track in 1865. These laborers were escaping the poverty and terror of the Taiping Rebellion in China.  Because they liked the completed work so much, Central Pacific preferred hiring more Chinese men and recruited them in Canton, China. Approximately 12,000 Chinese railroad workers performed dangerous work that others refused to do. Rivers were dammed, ditches were dug, and tunnels were blasted through mountain rangers. Many were killed on the job. Chinese workers faced a lot of discrimination and were paid less but they never quit. Even though most of the black and white workers were paid $30 each month along with food and lodging, most Chinese workers were paid $26 a month and provided lodging but they preferred to cook their own food.

The president of Central Pacific told Congress in 1865 that most of the railroad labor force were Chinese, He said without the Chinese, it would be impossible to complete the western portion of the railroad within the time required.

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