17 May 2014

Descendants Of Chinese Laborers Reclaim Railroad's History

Descendants Of Chinese Laborers Reclaim Railroad's History (NPR All Things Considered, 10 May 2014)

East finally met West 145 years ago on America's first transcontinental railroad. The symbolic hammering of a golden spike at Promontory Summit, Utah, completed the connection between the country's two coasts and shortened a cross-country trip of more than six months down to a week. Much of the building was done by thousands of laborers brought in from China, but their faces were left out of photographs taken on that momentous day.

Over the years, one photograph in particular from May 10, 1869, has taken root in U.S. history. "It's a black-and-white, very historic-looking photo," says Connie Young Yu, the great-granddaughter of a Chinese laborer on the railroad. The iconic image shows a crowd of men swarmed around two locomotives. "In the middle are the two engineers shaking hands," Yu says. "And above them are workers hoisting champagne bottles." The bubbly marked the long-awaited completion of the Gateway to the American West, nearly 2,000 miles of iron rail that crossed the Rockies and Sierra Nevada.

But the portrait wasn't perfect. "History — at least photographically — says that the Chinese were not present," says photographer Corky Lee.

Related Link: A ‘photographic act of justice’ for Chinese laborers at Golden Spike (The Salt Lake Tribune, 10 May 2014)