Legislation to Highlight Chinese American History in Curriculum Signed into Law in California

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SACRAMENTO — California students will receive instruction regarding the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the contributions made by Chinese Americans in establishing the Transcontinental Railroad under a new bill signed by Governor Jerry Brown Tuesday.

Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill (AB) 2864 authored by Assemblymember Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park), Chau’s office announced.

“AB 2864 brings awareness to two key pieces of history that captures the Chinese American experience,” said Assemblymember Chau.

“The first involves the presence of Chinese Americans in building the Transcontinental Railroad that linked the United States from the West to the East. The second piece of history stems from the discrimination Chinese Americans faced when the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was enacted to prevent Chinese from owning land, interracial marriages, and the reunion of these hardworking Chinese men with their families.”

Chinese Americans have played a significant role in the history of California and the United States. They have contributed to America and California as builders of the Transcontinental Railroad. It is estimated that 11,000 or so Chinese men performed much of the back-breaking and treacherous labor at extremely low and unfair wages.

They worked long hours in poor working conditions, lived in underground tunnels and often faced fierce discrimination. They worked to the point of exhaustion, and more than one thousand lost their lives in accidents and avalanches while they laid the tracks in the Sierra Nevada Mountains that rose to an elevation of over 14,000 feet.

The Chinese American experience is also represented by the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.  It was the first major law to single out and forbid a specific ethnic group, the Chinese, from immigrating to, and becoming naturalized citizens of the United States.

“I authored AB 2864 in remembrance to those brave souls who lost their lives and served as pioneers in paving the way for Asian Americans,” said Chau.

“This bill will ensure that students throughout California are reminded that these key pieces of history did not go without sacrifice by those who have come before us,” Chau added.

“I applaud the Governor for signing this bill, because it will give students, from various cultures and backgrounds, a time and a place to hold discussions of similar or shared experiences to promote, build and strengthen relationships among all members of our communities,” concluded Chau.

 

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