Washington, D.C., May 9, 2014, — The Department of Labor inducted Chinese Railroad Workers into the Labor Hall of Honor in a ceremony earlier today. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez presides at the ceremony. Chinese workers finally receive their due 145 years after their work completed.
12,000 Chinese worked on the Central Pacific Railroad from 1865-1869, risking their lives to carve a path through the granite of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to join the Union Pacific Railroad at Promontory Summit to establish the First Transcontinental Railroad. The hard work of the Chinese was barely acknowledged, and individual Chinese were rarely named.
Chinese Historical Society of America (CHSA) emeritus board member, community historian, author and railroad worker descendant, Connie Young Yu represented descendant families on the program. About two dozens of descendants of the Chinese railroad workers were also invited to the ceremony.
The Chinese workers were the first Asian-Americans to be inducted into the hall since it was established in 1988. President Barack Obama proclaimed early this week that May has been designated “Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month,” in part because the Transcontinental Railroad was completed on May 10, 1869.
In their honor, the Chinese Historical Society of America has documented this unprecedented gathering. It will launch a NEW chapter, by sharing the stories of the descendants of known Chinese railroad workers who helped to build the American West.
The Chinese Historical Society of America Museum is the oldest and largest organization in the country dedicated to the interpretation, promotion, and preservation of the social, cultural and political history and contributions of the Chinese in America. The website of CHSA is www.chsa.org.
When founded in 1963, there were fewer than 250,000 people of Chinese descent living in the US and CHSA was a lone voice for the study and dissemination of the history of this segment of the US population. Today, as the number of Chinese in the US has risen to nearly 4 million, CHSA strives to be a responsible steward of the remarkable narrative of this rapidly growing and increasingly visible community.