Ghosts of Gold Mountain: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad

Chang, Gordon H.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Physical description: 
312 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Publishing date: 
May 7, 2019
Book Description: 

The long-lost tale of the Chinese workers who built the Transcontinental Railroad, helping to forge modern America only to disappear into the shadows of history. In 1864, as the Civil War still raged, throngs of Chinese migrants began to converge on the enormous western worksite of the Transcontinental Railroad. Over the next five years, they blasted tunnels through the granite cliffs of the Sierra Nevada and laid tracks across the burning Nevada and Utah deserts. As many as twelve hundred lost their lives along the route. Those who survived would suffer a different kind of death: a historical one, as they were pushed first to the margins of American life and then to the fringes of public memory. Of the twenty thousand Chinese laborers who toiled on the western portion of the Transcontinental, not one is named in histories of the railroad. Many were literate, yet not a scrap of their writing remains. In this groundbreaking book, award-winning historian Gordon H. Chang recovers the stories of these "silent spikes" and returns them to their rightful place in our national saga. Drawing on recent archaeological findings, as well as payroll records, ship manifests, photographs, and other sources from American and Chinese archives, Chang retraces the laborers' odyssey in breathtaking detail. He introduces individual workers, describes their hopes and fears, and shows how they lived, ate, fought, loved, worked, and worshiped. Their sweat and blood not only fueled the ascent of an interlinked, industrial United States, but also laid the groundwork for a thriving Chinese America. A magisterial feat of scholarship and storytelling, Ghosts of Gold Mountain honors these immigrants' sacrifice and ingenuity, and celebrates their role in this defining American achievement.

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