Chinese Immigration and the Transcontinental Railroad

Today we read Coolies by Yin, a story of two brothers working on the Transcontinental Railroad in the 1860’s.

This kicks off our unit on Chinese Immigration during the time of the Chinese Exclusion Act.  In 1865 two railroad companies began work on the Transcontinental Railroad.  The Union Pacific Railroad Company started in Nebraska and working its way west, while the Central Pacific started in California and worked east.   They finally met at Promontory Summit, Utah on May 10, 1969.   Initially it was thought that Chinese immigrants were not cut out for the hard life of railroad work, and bosses refused to hire them.  Soon they proved themselves becoming known for great talent and superior work ethic. While thousands of Chinese immigrants had been recruited, hired, and brutally driven to complete the railroad, they were paid less than white workers.  They were also subjected to a great deal of discrimination and poor treatment by other workers.  When pictures of “the last spike” were sent around the country, there was not a Chinese worker to be seen.  They were not allowed in the photos. 

Click here for more information or check out these videos!

Chinese Laborers

Men of Iron: A Tribute Song

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