Historians honored for restoring legacy of Chinese railroad workers in U.S.

Source: Xinhua| 2019-05-24 18:24:32|Editor: Li Xia
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SAN FRANCISCO, May 23 (Xinhua) -- Two Chinese American historians in California were honored Thursday for their contribution to restoring the forgotten history of Chinese workers who built the first American Transcontinental Railroad 150 years ago.

Gordon H. Chang, a professor of American history at Stanford University, and Connie Young Yu, a writer and historian, received certificates of recognition from California Assembly Member Evan Low at an Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month celebration event in Cupertino, California on Thursday.

The event was hosted by Low's office to celebrate the contributions that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have made to both California and the nation.

Seven years ago, Chang launched the Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project to give a voice to Chinese migrant workers whose labor helped shape the physical and social landscape of the American West.

"I've always been interested in railroad workers, because it's part of Chinese community lore. But it took decades before I finally had a chance to devote concerted effort to restore the history of Chinese railroad workers," said Chang.

Over the last seven years, the project has received funding and support from almost 200 scholars and researchers.

Chang had a new book published recently titled "Ghosts of Gold Mountain: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad."

Another new book "Voices from the Railroad: Stories by Descendants of Chinese Railroad Workers" by Yu told nine stories of Chinese railroad workers with historical photos collected by their descendants.

A descendant of railroad workers herself, Yu spent 50 years on the project, interviewing 50 other descendants across the United States. She said her book aims to "give voices and faces" to those Chinese railroad workers.

"They had no names and no faces. Nobody cares about who they are. But as descendants, we have kept the history. There's a lot of pride," she said.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the completion of the American Transcontinental Railroad. The construction of the railroad relied heavily on human labor, requiring thousands of workers.

Historians believed that between 12,000 and 20,000 Chinese workers were recruited to work on the railroad.