Free and open to the public
Between 1864 and 1869, thousands of Chinese migrants toiled at a grueling pace and in perilous working conditions to help construct America’s first Transcontinental Railroad. The labor of these Chinese workers (who eventually numbered between 10-12,000 at any one moment) was central to creating the wealth that Leland Stanford used to found Stanford University. But these workers have never received the attention they deserve. We know relatively little about their lives. What led them to come to the United States? What experiences did they have in their arduous work? How did they live their daily lives? What kinds of communities did they create? How did their work on the railroad change the lives of their families in China and how did it change the lives of the workers themselves?
The Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project seeks to give a voice to the Chinese migrants whose labor on the Transcontinental Railroad helped to shape the physical and social landscape of the American West. To this end, the project has developed a wide array of digital research methods and infrastructure—including archives, interactive maps, oral histories, and materials for teachers—and combined them with historical analysis to create a novel resource for those wishing to understand the history of the Chinese railroad workers. In this talk, the first in the CESTA Digital Humanities Public Lecture Series, Stanford Professor of History Gordon Chang and Dr. Roland Hsu, Director of Research of the project, will discuss the history of the Chinese railroad workers and describe the key findings and stories unearthed by this influential digital humanities project.