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RTX6V5XE
Celebrating Chinese immigrants who built cross-America railroad
Chinese-Americans commemorate their ancestors' roles in building much of the cross-country U.S. Transcontinental Railroad that transformed America's Western frontier, performing dangerous, often deadly work for less pay through the rugged Sierra Nevada mountains.
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May 09, 2019
Connie Young Yu, 77, a descendant of a Chinese Transcontinental Railroad worker, teaches a fencing class,...
San Jose, UNITED STATES
Connie Young Yu, 77, a descendant of a Chinese Transcontinental Railroad worker, teaches a fencing class...
Connie Young Yu, 77, a descendant of a Chinese Transcontinental Railroad worker, teaches a fencing class, before the 150th anniversary of the completion of the railroad, in San Jose, California, May 1, 2019. Yu says that when her parents joined a delegation of fellow Chinese-Americans attending a 1969 event commemorating the centennial of the first U.S. Transcontinental Railroad, they were snubbed, upstaged by Hollywood star John Wayne.

Now 50 years later, she and others descended from Chinese immigrants who built much of the cross-country rail line are looking forward to the 150th "Golden Spike" anniversary in Utah for rightful recognition they say is long overdue.

"It's our connection to and participation in American society," Yu, 77, a board member of the Chinese Historical Society of America in San Francisco, told Reuters in a recent interview. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
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May 09, 2019
A certificate of residence, which belonged to one of Connie Young Yu's ancestors and was required under...
San Jose, UNITED STATES
A certificate of residence, which was required under federal Chinese Exclusion Laws passed after the...
A certificate of residence, which belonged to one of Connie Young Yu's ancestors and was required under federal Chinese Exclusion Laws passed after the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, is seen in San Jose, California, May 1, 2019. Yu's great-grandfather, Lee Wong Sang, was a foreman on the 19th-century project, for which railroad contractors recruited thousands of Chinese, mostly Cantonese-speaking laborers from China's Guangdong province.

They made up the bulk of workers for the Central Pacific, or western, segment of the railway, laying track and carving railbeds over and through the rugged Sierra Nevada mountains. They uniformly worked longer hours for less pay than their white counterparts on the Union Pacific, and performed the most dangerous work. There were no power tools. Virtually all work was done by hand.
Untold numbers - as many as 1,200 by some estimates - perished in blasting accidents, snowslides, falls and other mishaps.

"We Cantonese feel a pride that our roots are in these hardworking people who built this great iron road that connected America," Yu said, adding she will be speaking for all immigrants when she addresses Friday's event on behalf of the Chinese-American delegation.

REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
USA-GOLDENSPIKE/
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May 09, 2019
Russell Low, 66, of San Diego, whose great-grandfather, Hung Lai Wah, emigrated from China to work on...
KELTON, UNITED STATES
Russell Low, 66, of San Diego, whose great-grandfather, Hung Lai Wah, emigrated from China to work on...
Russell Low, 66, of San Diego, whose great-grandfather, Hung Lai Wah, emigrated from China to work on the Transcontinental Railroad, looks at a trestle on the historic railroad grade, before the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, near Kelton, Utah, May 8, 2019. Initiated during the Civil War and taking six years to complete, the railway's construction transformed America's Western frontier, accelerating Anglo-European settlement of the vast region and aligning it politically with the Union states of the North. It also hastened the demise of the Plains Indians, as well as the bison herds on which they depended. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
USA-GOLDENSPIKE/
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May 09, 2019
A group including descendants of Chinese Transcontinental Railroad workers tours sites on the historic...
KELTON, UNITED STATES
A group including descendants of Chinese Transcontinental Railroad workers tours sites on the historic...
A group including descendants of Chinese Transcontinental Railroad workers tours sites on the historic railroad grade, before the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, near Kelton, Utah, May 8, 2019.

REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
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May 09, 2019
Sue Lee, former director of the Chinese Historical Society of America, poses for a photo before the 150th...
San Francisco, UNITED STATES
Sue Lee, former director of the Chinese Historical Society of America, poses for a photo in Chinatown...
Sue Lee, former director of the Chinese Historical Society of America, poses for a photo before the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, in Chinatown in San Francisco, California, April 30, 2019. Backlash against the Chinese following completion of the Transcontinental Railroad led to the passage of the federal Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, marking the first significant law restricting U.S. immigration.

Remaining on the books until 1943, the exclusion laws drove many immigrants to alter their names and falsify family ties, playing a role in making it hard for Chinese-Americans to trace their roots, according to San Francisco-based historian Sue Lee.

Other factors include a general lack of records listing individual Chinese workers by name and the fact that many returned to their homeland after the project ended, Lee said. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
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May 09, 2019
Artifacts are seen at a site on the historic railroad grade, before the 150th anniversary of the completion...
KELTON, UNITED STATES
Artifacts are seen at a site on the historic railroad grade near Kelton
Artifacts are seen at a site on the historic railroad grade, before the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, near Kelton, Utah, May 8, 2019. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
USA-GOLDENSPIKE/
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May 09, 2019
A group including descendants of Chinese Transcontinental Railroad workers visits a trestle on a historic...
KELTON, UNITED STATES
A group including descendants of Chinese Transcontinental Railroad workers visits a trestle on the historic...
A group including descendants of Chinese Transcontinental Railroad workers visits a trestle on a historic railroad grade, before the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, near Kelton, Utah, May 8, 2019. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
USA-GOLDENSPIKE/
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May 09, 2019
Paulette Liang, 76, poses for a portrait with a photo of her great-grandfather, Lum Ah Chew, who emigrated...
San Francisco, UNITED STATES
Paulette Liang, 76, poses for a portrait with a photo of her great-grandfather, Lum Ah Chew, a Chinese...
Paulette Liang, 76, poses for a portrait with a photo of her great-grandfather, Lum Ah Chew, who emigrated from China in 1860 and worked on the Transcontinental Railroad, before the 150th anniversary of the completion of the railroad, near her home in San Francisco, California, May 3, 2019. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
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May 09, 2019
Utah Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer Chris Merritt leads a tour for descendants of Chinese...
KELTON, UNITED STATES
Archaeologist Chris Merritt leads a tour for descendants of Chinese railroad workers on the historic...
Utah Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer Chris Merritt leads a tour for descendants of Chinese railroad workers on a historic railroad grade, before the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, near Kelton, Utah, May 8, 2019. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
USA-GOLDENSPIKE/
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May 07, 2019
Volunteer Chuck Holmes, of Detroit, MI, greets visitors near a replica of the Central Pacific Railroad's...
Promontory, UNITED STATES
Volunteer Chuck Holmes, of Detroit, MI, greets visitors at Golden Spike National Historic Park in Promontory...
Volunteer Chuck Holmes, of Detroit, MI, greets visitors near a replica of the Central Pacific Railroad's historic Jupiter steam engine at Golden Spike National Historic Park in Promontory, Utah, May 7, 2019. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
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May 07, 2019
The Pacific Railway Act of 1862 is seen in the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City, Utah, May 7, 2019....
Salt Lake City, UNITED STATES
The Pacific Railway Act of 1862 is seen in the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City
The Pacific Railway Act of 1862 is seen in the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City, Utah, May 7, 2019. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
USA-GOLDENSPIKE/
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May 07, 2019
A Chinese tour group looks at the Nevada Silver Spike, and the gold Last Spike of the Transcontinental...
Salt Lake City, UNITED STATES
A Chinese tour group looks at the Nevada Silver Spike, and the gold Last Spike of the Transcontinental...
A Chinese tour group looks at the Nevada Silver Spike, and the gold Last Spike of the Transcontinental Railroad in the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City, Utah, May 7, 2019. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
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May 07, 2019
A replica of the last railroad tie laid on the Transcontinental Railroad is seen at Golden Spike National...
Promontory, UNITED STATES
A replica of the last railroad tie laid on the Transcontinental Railroad is seen at Golden Spike National...
A replica of the last railroad tie laid on the Transcontinental Railroad is seen at Golden Spike National Historic Park in Promontory, Utah, May 7, 2019. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
USA-GOLDENSPIKE/
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May 07, 2019
An inscription is seen on the gold Last Spike of the Transcontinental Railroad in the Utah State Capitol...
Salt Lake City, UNITED STATES
An inscription is seen on the gold Last Spike of the Transcontinental Railroad in the Utah State Capitol...
An inscription is seen on the gold Last Spike of the Transcontinental Railroad in the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City, Utah, May 7, 2019. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
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