Sample Module: Transcontinental Railroad

Note: This prospective lesson will focus on the texts from Week 3 (below) and assume that students have completed the first part of this unit (Week 2) on the transcontinental railroad.

Unit 2: The Transcontinental Railroad, Labor, and Building the Nation’s Networks

Week 2:


Neighbors by Nature: Relationships, Border Crossings, and Transnational Communities in the Chinese Exclusion Era.” Grace Peña Delgado Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 80, No. 3 (August 2011), pp. 401-429.

Browse: Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project at Stanford University

Annotation Activity:

Week 3:


The Grandfather of the Sierra Nevada Mountains” by Maxine Hong Kingston, China Men (1977)

Driving Steel” by Jeff Yang and Benton Jew, Secret Identities (2009)

Annotation Activity:

Discussion Questions:

In the forum for this week, respond to the following questions about the literary and cinematic texts we’ve read that mediate historical narratives of Chinese migration to the the American West.

  1. What are the push-pull factors that drove or drew the Chinese to the US? What are they according to historical accounts, vs. creative texts? How do the creative texts mediate these historical factors?
  2. How do the different media represented reflect or reimagine the experience of a railroad worker in the 19th century.
    1. What elements are especially highlighted in some forms or overlooked in others?
    2. In what way does each form excel at storytelling?
  3. How do these texts change or reinforce dominant notions of the US West?
  4. Consider this history in relation to Los Angeles today as a tech hub: Silicon Beach, One Wilshire, etc. What does the larger history of network building and its reliance on immigrant/migrant labor say about the larger project of nation building?


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