The Chinese Historical Society of America (CHSA) Museum introduces our Work of Giants: Chinese Railroad Worker Project. This initiative was launched in 2014 on the occasion of the 145th anniversary of the completion of the United States’ first Transcontinental railroad. That year, we witnessed unprecedented nationwide recognition of the instrumental role of the Chinese in constructing the Transcontinental railroad. The US Department of Labor inducted Chinese railroad workers into the Labor Hall of Honor, and this occasion presented an opportunity to change the historical narrative. Descendants of railroad worker families, along with CHSA, attended to honor the memory and legacy of their pioneer forefathers. With this historic occasion, CHSA launched a NEW chapter by sharing the stories of the descendants of known Chinese railroad workers who helped to build the American West.
Updated August 25, 2015: KTSF aired an interview with CHSA Executive Director, railroad worker descendant Paulette Liang, and Stanford CRRW Project Co-Director Gordon Chang.
Updated August 5, 2015: ABC-7 News aired a story about the Chinese Railroad Workers, featuring CHSA Executive Director Sue Lee and Stanford University CRRW Project Co-Directors Gordon Chang & Shelley Fisher Fishkin. Watch the video here or visit abc7news.com:
Updated July 29, 2015: CHSA was featured on KQED Radio’s Forum on July 27, 2015! CHSA Executive Director Sue Lee, Stanford University CRRW Project Co-Director Gordon Chang, and railroad descendants Russell Low and Connie Young Yu discussed the history of Chinese railroad workers with host Michael Krasny. Listen here:
With the Work of Giants Project, CHSA Museum created new projects that deepen our understanding of the history and contributions of Chinese railroad workers. These projects include:
The Chinese and the Iron Road: Building the Transcontinental Travelling Exhibition
A portable exhibit providing an historical overview of the Chinese railroad workers who were instrumental in building the United States’ first Transcontinental Railroad. Produced in collaboration with the Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project at Stanford University (CRRW).
The Chinese and the Iron Road – June 6, 2015 Conference at Stanford University
The Chinese Railroad Workers of North America Project at Stanford University (CRRW) and the Chinese Historical Society of America Museum (CHSA) co-presented a luncheon and afternoon program celebrating the lives of the Chinese railroad workers who were essential in building the United States’ first Transcontinental Railroad.
Videos about Chinese railroad workers
Includes: Interviews produced by award-winning journalist Rick Quan, video about Summit Tunnel produced by California State Parks and narrated by historian and railroad worker descendant Connie Young Yu, and presentations by railroad worker descendants.
Voices from the Railroad: Stories by descendants of Chinese railroad workers
Published in 2014 by CHSA, Voices from the Railroad reveals the untold stories of three different Chinese railroad workers: Jim King, Hung Lai Woh, and Lim Lip Hong. Their stories, revealed by their living descendants, shatter misconceptions about the Chinese who helped build America. (Read an excerpt here)
In 2019, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental, Voices from the Railroad was reprinted to include even more stories.
Work of Giants Online Exhibition
This bilingual Chinese/English online exhibition was launched in 2013 to introduce the history and stories of Chinese railroad workers to the broader public.
The story of CHSA and the Transcontinental railroad Centennial in 1969
CHSA’s own history with the Transcontinental railroad began in 1969, when a CHSA delegation was unexpectedly excluded from the Centennial program. Read more about CHSA at the 1969 centennial here >
While CHSA has greatly increased knowledge of Chinese railroad workers in a short amount of time, much work remains to be done!
Survey for Chinese railroad worker descendants
We are actively seeking stories and artifacts from descendants of Chinese Railroad Workers. If you have any information, stories, or leads about Chinese railroad workers in your family history, or are inspired to contribute any artifacts, mementos, or relics from that time, please fill out this survey or contact us directly!
Support CHSA’s Work of Giants Project!
One of our challenges as an increasingly visible minority is to get people to learn more about our history, and how our history is a fundamental part of American history. We need your help to continue building on what we have achieved with the Work of Giants Project! We need financial support to:
- Expand the traveling exhibit The Chinese and the Iron Road
- Develop a database for descendants of Chinese railroad workers to share information about their ancestors
- Further disseminate information about Chinese railroad workers, by making our exhibitions and projects accessible to nonprofits, schools and the general public
- Put together more oral histories, research, and interviews with railroad worker descendants
Please consider making a contribution today! Any amount will help to further the mission of the Work of Giants Project. CHSA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, so donations are tax deductible. We are also actively seeking sponsors to underwrite future projects.