Thursday, June 5, 2014

2014 Asian American & Pacific Heritage Festival Kick Off

Executive director of CAPA, Dancing group Gen and Corky Lee discuss plans for this years 35th Asian American & Pacific Heritage Festival starting next week.

Presentation at Fushimi resturaunt included an introduction of show details and a brief performance by Dance Group Gen.

Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans (CAPA) Presents Gen 根

Show Dates
  • Thursday June 12, 8PM
  • Friday June 13, 8:00PM
  • Saturday June 14, 2:00PM & 8:00PM
  • Sunday June 15, 2014, 2:00PM
  • Venue: 440 STUDIOS

This years theme focuses on work done by Photojournalist Corky Lee and the Utah Chapter of Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA) to recreate the iconic photograph of completion of the first Transcontinental Railroad but with Asians in the picture. The original image taken in 1869 did not include any Asians at all.

Listen carefully and think about how Robert Kiyosaki , a forth generation Japanese American whose parents arrived in USA just after the building of railroads, describes the American society of that time.

The original image, while widely distributed, was inaccurate in that not a single Asian was present despite the fact that over 12,000 workers from Asia built the railroad. Yet they represented the majority of the workforce. African slavery had already been banned on the frontier which included states of the Mid and West coast where the new tracks were being laid. Because there were no slaves, Chinese were imported to work instead.

The American Civil War, also known as the War Between the States or simply the Civil War, was a civil war fought from 1861 to 1865, after seven Southern slave states declared their secession and formed the Confederate States of America (the "Confederacy" or the "South", which grew to include eleven states). The states that remained in the Union were known as the "Union" or the "North". The war had its origin in the fractious issue of slavery, especially the extension of slavery into the western territories.

The Chinese arrived in the U.S. in large numbers on the West Coast in the 1850s and 1860s to work in the gold mines and railroads. They encountered very strong opposition—violent as riots and physical attacks forced them out of the gold mines. The Central Pacific railroad hired thousands, but after the line was finished in 1869 they were hounded out of many railroad towns in states such as Wyoming and Nevada. Most wound up in Chinatowns—areas of large cities which the police largely ignored. The Chinese were attacked—especially by Irish Americans (who were themselves recent immigrants)--as undesirable and inassimilable strangers who brought disease, economic competition, vice (gambling, prostitution and opium), and immorality to the communities in which they settled. The Chinese were further alleged to be "coolies" who were practically slaves, and were said to be not suitable for becoming independent thoughtful voters because of their alien mindset and their control by tongs.

Since 1869, anybody born in US became an citizen automatically. At the same time, however, the US government banned immigration of Chinese women. As a result, many Chinese men led the bachelor life because they were not socially acceptable to the larger society being victims of both personal and institutional racism.

Timeline and History

  • 1820s, Chinese (mostly merchants, sailors, and students) begin to immigrate via Sino-U.S. maritime trade.
  • 1854, the California Supreme Court case ruled that the testimony of a Chinese man who witnessed a murder by a white man was inadmissible.
  • 1861, US Civil War starts
  • 1862, California imposes a tax of $2.50 a month on every Chinese man
  • 1865, The Central Pacific Railroad Co. recruits Chinese workers for the transcontinental railroad from California to Utah. Many are killed or injured in the harsh conditions blasting through difficult mountain terrain.
  • 1865, US Civil War ends 
  • 1869, The Fourteenth Amendment gives full citizenship to every baby born in the U.S., regardless of race.
  • 1877, Denis Kearney organizes anti-Chinese movement in San Francisco; forms Workingmen's Party of California alleging Chinese workers took lower wages, poorer conditions, and longer hours than white workers were willing to tolerate
  • 1878, Chinese are ruled ineligible for naturalized citizenship.
  • 1882, Chinese Exclusion Act is passed banning immigration of laborers from China. Students and businessmen are allowed.
  • 1886 the Rock Springs massacre in Wyoming kills 28 Chinese miners.
  • 1887, Robbers kill 31 Chinese miners Snake River, Oregon.
The first concrete plan for a transcontinental railroad in the United States was presented to Congress by Asa Whitney in 1845.

The world's First Transcontinental Railroad was built between 1863 and 1869 to join the eastern and western halves of the United States. Begun just preceding the American Civil War, its construction was considered to be one of the greatest American technological feats of the 19th century. Known as the "Pacific Railroad" when it opened, this served as a vital link for trade, commerce, and travel and opened up vast regions of the North American heartland for settlement. Shipping and commerce could thrive away from navigable watercourses for the first time since the beginning of the nation.

The transcontinental railroad provided fast, safe, and cheap transportation. The fare for a one week trip from Omaha to San Francisco on an emigrant sleeping car was about $65 for an adult. It replaced most of the far slower and more hazardous stagecoach lines and wagon trains. The number of emigrants taking the Oregon and California Trail declined dramatically. The sale of the railroad land grant lands and the transport provided for timber and crops led to the rapid settling of the "Great American Desert".

The Union Pacific recruited laborers from Army veterans and Irish immigrants while most of the engineers were ex-Army men who had learned their trade keeping the trains running during the American Civil War.

The Central Pacific Railroad faced a labor shortage in the more sparsely-settled West. It recruited Cantonese laborers in China, who did prodigious work building the line over and through the Sierra Nevada mountains and then across Nevada to their meeting in northern Utah.

The First Transcontinental Railroad (known originally as the "Pacific Railroad" and later as the "Overland Route") was a 1,907-mile (3,069 km) contiguous railroad line constructed between 1863 and 1869 across the western United States to connect the Pacific coast at San Francisco Bay with the existing Eastern U.S. rail network at Council Bluffs, Iowa, on the Missouri River.

Opened for through traffic on May 10, 1869, with the driving of the "Last Spike" with a silver hammer at Promontory Summit, the road established a mechanized transcontinental transportation network that revolutionized the settlement and economy of the American West by bringing these western states and territories firmly and profitably into the "Union" and making goods and transportation much quicker, cheaper and much more flexible from coast to coast.

Most key workers and supervisors were trained by previous on-the-job training and knew what needed to be done and how to direct workers to get it done. Most of the semi-skilled workers on the Union Pacific were recruited from the many discharged Union Army and Confederate Army veterans and emigrant Irishmen escaping poverty and famine in Ireland.

After 1864, the Central Pacific Railroad had the same Federal financial incentives as the Union Pacific Railroad as well as some construction bonds that were earlier granted by the state of California and the city of San Francisco. The Central Pacific hired engineers and surveyors who had extensive experience and training building railroads and knew what needed to be done and how to supervise others to get it done—some were Canadian and British trained. The Central Pacific, facing a semi-skilled labor shortage, relied on some black employees escaping the slavery and turmoil of the American Civil War and many emigrant Chinese manual laborers for construction. Most of these Chinese emigrants were escaping the poverty and terrors of the Taiping Revolution in the Kwangtung province in China. Supervisory, engineering and skilled jobs were done with experienced "white" workers including a lot of Irishmen. The Chinese, despite their small stature and total lack of experience with railroad work, handled most of the heavy manual labor needed to get over and through the rugged Sierra Nevada mountains and across the Nevada and Utah deserts. In that time period there was only a very limited amount of work that could be done by animals, simple machines or black powder. Most of the black and white workers were paid $30.00/month and provided food and lodging. Higher skilled and supervisory jobs paid more. Most Chinese were initially paid $31.00/month and provided lodging. They bought and cooked their own food—just as they desired. In 1867 this was raised to $35.00/month after a strike.

Upon the completion of their work on the CPRR's portion of the Pacific Railroad, many Chinese workers moved on to other railroad construction jobs including with the Central and Southern Pacific. Of those that left the company's employ, some returned to their families in China with their savings, while others sent to China for wives and settled in various western communities as miners, laundrymen, and restaurateurs. Some returned with their families and settled into "China towns" in various cities. The majority who remained in the United States, however, returned to and settled in the San Francisco Bay area, Sacramento, Marysville and elsewhere along the Pacific coast. Because of the later restrictions on the immigration of Chinese workers, many never got married or reunited with their families if they stayed in the U.S.

Central Pacific
On January 8, 1863, Governor Leland Stanford ceremoniously broke ground in Sacramento, California, to begin construction of the Central Pacific Railroad. After great initial progress along the Sacramento Valley, construction was slowed, first by the foothills of the Sierra Nevada (U.S.), then by cutting a railroad bed up the mountains themselves. As they progressed higher in the mountains, winter snowstorms and a shortage of reliable labor compounded the problems. Consequently, after a trial crew of Chinese workers was hired and found to work successfully, the Central Pacific expanded its efforts to hire more emigrant laborers—mostly Chinese. Emigrants from poverty stricken regions of China, many of which suffered from the strife of the Taiping Rebellion, seemed to be more willing to tolerate the living and working conditions on the railroad construction, and progress on the railroad continued. The increasing necessity for tunneling as they proceeded up the mountains then began to slow progress of the line yet again.

The Chinese built 15 tunnels for Central Pacific. These tunnels were about 32 feet high and 16 feet wide. When tunnels with vertical shafts were dug to increase construction speed, and tunneling began in the middle of the tunnel, at first hand powered derricks were used to help remove loose rocks up the vertical shafts. These derricks were later replaced with steam hoists as work progressed. By using vertical shafts, four faces of the tunnel could be worked at the same time, two in the middle and one at each end. The average daily progress in some tunnels was only 0.85 feet a day per face, which was very slow, or 1.18 feet daily according to historian George Kraus. J. O. Wilder, a Central Pacific-Southern Pacific employee, commented that “The Chinese were as steady, hard-working a set of men as could be found. With the exception of a few whites at the west end of Tunnel No. 6, the laboring force was entirely composed of Chinamen with white foremen and a "boss/translator". A single foreman (often Irish) with a gang of 30 to 40 Chinese men generally constituted the force at work at each end of a tunnel; of these, 12 to 15 men worked on the heading, and the rest on the bottom, removing blasted material. When a gang was small or the men were needed elsewhere, the bottoms were worked with fewer men or stopped so as to keep the headings going.” The laborers usually worked three shifts of 8 hours each per day, while the foremen worked in two shifts of 12 hours each, managing the laborers. Once out of the Sierras, construction was much easier and faster.

Masonry walls such as the "Chinese Walls" at Donner Summit were built across canyons to prevent avalanches from striking the side of the vulnerable wooden construction. A few concrete sheds (mostly at crossovers) are still in use today.

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