Do Chinese Pioneers Get Railroaded in AMC’s ‘Hell on Wheels’?






The tale of the building of the transcontinental railroad, the steel band that wed the metropolitan East to the frontier West, is among the greatest in American history.

“It was the moon launch of its time,” says Chuck Vollan, assistant professor of history at South Dakota State University — an epic feat of engineering, human effort and national resolve. William G. Thomas, history professor at University of Nebraska and author of the new book “The Iron Way,” concurs, but adds that if anything, its impact was even more immediate and dramatic. “In a few short years, the railroad transformed society in ways that people of the time could never have imagined,” Thomas says. “It completely revolutionized communications and commerce. For people of that era, the railroad was the Internet.”

That’s why the announcement by AMC — the cable channel responsible for “Mad Men” and the breakout zom-drom hit “The Walking Dead” — that its next big original series, titled “Hell on Wheels,” would be set against the backdrop of the railroad’s construction triggered a surge of interest and hope in the Asian-American community. AMC at first indicated that the stories of Chinese Americans would not be part of the series. But in a statement sent to Speakeasy, the creators of the series now say they may broaden the show in coming seasons....



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