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Latest Building the Transcontinental Railroad: How Some 20,000 Chinese Immigrants Made It Happen

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Chinese workers building a cut and a bank at Sailor’s Spur in the Sierra foothills for the Central Pacific Railroad in California, 1866.

A Murder Changed ThatAccording to the Chinese Railroad Workers Project, Central Pacific started with a crew of 21 Chinese workers in January 1864.

Bettmann Archive/Getty Images“In January 1865, convinced that Chinese workers were capable, the railroad hired 50 Chinese workers and then 50 more,” the Project notes.

According to the Project, Chinese workers hired in 1864 were paid $26 a month, working six days a week.

Despite Chinese workers’ contributions to building America’s historic infrastructure project, Chang says their history is often forgotten.

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