Los Angeles Times

Michael Hiltzik: Chinese immigrants helped build California, but they've been written out of its history

In 2014, the U.S. Labor Department formally inducted the Chinese workers who helped build the transcontinental railroad into its Hall of Honor, giving them a place in American labor history alongside union leaders such as Eugene V. Debs and A. Philip Randolph and champions of worker dignity such as Mother Jones and Cesar Chavez.

What was remarkable about that moment was that it took the nation 145 years to recognize Chinese immigrants' role in building the nation.

From 1865 to 1869, as many as 20,000 Chinese laborers worked on the Central Pacific Railroad, which ran from Sacramento to Promontory Summit, Utah, where it was united with the Union Pacific Railroad in the golden spike ceremony marking the completion of the first transcontinental railroad. Those workers accounted for as much as 90 percent of the Central Pacific workforce.

The Central Pacific could not have been built without them - and without the Central Pacific, the history of the American West and California in particular

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