Before reading the article:
The first Transcontinental Railroad, completed in 1869, joined two railroads to connect the east and west coasts of the United States for the first time. It was a feat of engineering that meant that a dangerous journey that once took months could now be completed in a week.
As you will read in this article, one scholar calls the feat “every bit as consequential as the digital revolution that binds the world” today.
Why might that be true? Even if you don’t know much about the history of the Transcontinental Railroad, how can you imagine this railroad might have impacted the United States and the world at the time?
Now, read the article, “Chinese Railroad Workers Were Almost Written Out of History. Now They’re Getting Their Due,” and answer the following questions:
1. What happened on May 10, 1869, in Promontory, Utah?
2. Who were “invisible at the ceremony, and in its retelling for many years afterward,” and why? What famous quote from the 100th anniversary illustrates this? How?
3. How did the 150th anniversary celebrate “a more complete picture of the monumental feat”? What other groups were part of the diverse work force that was instrumental in building the railroad?
4. Who are the historians who have renewed the focus on the contributions of the Chinese workers, and what have they drawn on for their research?
5. The last four paragraphs of this article concern Stanford University and its founder. What complications do they reveal in terms of the legacy of the man and the institution?
6. What can you learn from the images included in this piece? Which ones are most interesting to you? Why?
Finally, tell us more about what you think:
What other events in the past do you think have been written about incompletely because official histories have often left out the contributions, or points of view, of key stakeholders?