This Day in History

Sept. 7, 1977: Panama Canal

Time Periods: 1961
Themes: Labor, World History/Global Studies

“. . . with their money they built the canal;
they dug the earth with your blood
and now dollars are sent to New York
leaving you the graves . . .” from “History of a Canal” by Pablo Neruda

On Sept. 7, 1977, the Treaty Concerning the Permanent Neutrality and Operation of the Panama Canal and the Panama Canal Treaty were signed to turn over control of the Panama Canal from the U.S. to Panama on Dec. 31, 1999.

Panama Canal | Zinn Education Project

People building the Canal in very dangerous conditions. Source: National Archives

To learn about the dangers for the workers and the environment during the building of the Panama Canal, we recommend the resources listed below, including Silver People by Margarita Engle for middle school students. A related resource is the documentary The Panama Deception about the 1989 invasion of Panama by the United States.