This week’s Text, in this blog’s ongoing observation of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month 2021, is a reading on the transcontinental railroad in the United States along with its vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet.
The utility of this reading lies–or would if I were teaching it–in the scant mention it makes of the labor force that built the first transcontinental railroad in this nation; indeed, the one mention of it is in the “Additional Facts” section, which I always include in the activity, but for many students by their own admission is an afterthought. The fact remains that without Chinese laborers, progress on building the first transcontinental railroad, a critical piece of infrastructure in the then rapidly expanding United States, would have proceeded at a much slower pace.
As many as 20,000 Chinese workers helped to build the railroad; hundreds, perhaps even a thousand, died in the effort. For their work, these Chinese railroad workers were rewarded with unfair labor practices, general bigotry, and in 1882 the Chinese Exclusion Act.
So, perhaps it’s time to lift the general erasure of this piece of American history so that students in the United States are exposed to the full spectrum of facts, in context, about the contributions of Americans of Chinese descent to the wealth of this nation.
If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.