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Builders of the Transcontinental Railroad: Traversing China and America

Builders of the Transcontinental Railroad: Traversing China and America

Courtesy of the Collection of the Oakland Museum of California

China and Beyond Forum

Saturday, February 22, 2020
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association Auditorium
925 N. Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90012

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2019 marks the 150-year anniversary of the completion of the US Transcontinental Railroad, and the labor of Chinese railroad workers was instrumental to its completion. These Chinese immigrants in the 19th century were part of a global outmigration of Chinese laborers across the seas to the Americas, Southeast Asia, and Africa. The 2019 Xiangli Chen China and Beyond Forum will highlight the stories of these migrants, their varied experiences in China and their countries of destination, and the diasporic communities that they formed in their new homelands.

Featuring a keynote lecture by Gordon Chang, Olive H. Palmer Professor in the Humanities and Professor of American history, Stanford University, with a keynote presentation on the Chinese Railroad Workers of North America Project.

with discussion by:

Evelyn Hu-DeHart, Professor of History, American Studies and Ethnic Studies, Brown University

Dr. Russell Low, author of Three Coins: A Young Girl's Story of Kidnappings, Slavery, and Romance in 19th Century America

Moderated by Min Zhou, Director of the UCLA Asia Pacific Center, Professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies, and Walter and Shirley Wang Chair in US-China Relations & Communications.

Doors open at 11:30. Reception to follow at Golden Dragon Restaurant.

K-12 TEACHER WORKSHOP - 2:00-3:00 PM

A K-12 teacher training workshop will be organized by the UCLA History-Geography Project in conjunction with the program. The workshop will introduce strategies for incorporating the history of the Transcontinental Railroad workers into the California social studies framework, with particular focus on oral histories and ethnic studies. For more information and to register for the workshop, please contact Daniel Diaz at ddiaz@gseis.ucla.edu.


Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association is located at 925 N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90012, in Chinatown (near the intersection with College St). We recommend taking public transit if possible. Chinatown Station on Metro L Line (Gold) is one block away on Spring St. Parking is available at Golden Dragon Restaurant, 960 N Broadway, nearby and across the street. Look for a white sign with red and blue letters (photo below). Bring cash to tip the attendants ($2-5).


Gordon Chang is Professor of American History, Olive H. Palmer Professor in Humanities, and Senior Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education at Stanford University. His academic interests lie in the connection between race and ethnicity in America, American foreign relations, and trans-Pacific relations in their diplomatic as well as their cultural and social dimensions. He is author of numerous books and articles on U.S. diplomacy, America-China relations, the Chinese diaspora, Asian American history, and global history. He is co-director of the Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project, based at Stanford. Recent publications include Ghosts of Gold Mountain: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2019) and The Chinese and the Iron Road Building the Transcontinental Railroad (Stanford University Press, 2019), on which his lecture is based.

Evelyn Hu-DeHart is Professor of History, American Studies and Ethnic Studies at Brown University. She has researched and published on indigenous peoples on the U.S.-Mexico border; the Chinese diaspora in Latin America and the Caribbean; and race relations and minority politics in the U.S. Select publications on the Chinese diaspora include these edited volumes: Across the Pacific: Asian Americans and Globalization (1999; e-version 2010); Asians in the Americas: Transculturation and Power (2002); Voluntary Associations in the Chinese Diaspora (2006); Asia and Latin America (2006); Afro-Asia (2008); Towards a Third Literature: Chinese Writings in the Americas (2012).

Russell Low is a California-born 4th-generation Chinese American physician who is a great grandson of Hung Lai Wah, a Transcontinental Railroad worker, and Tom Ying, a rescued child slave. His story sheds light on the trafficking of young Chinese women in the 1800’s as part of the illegal slave trade. The story of his great grandparents and their descendants has been featured on the History Channel, BBC Radio, National Public Radio, the Voice of America, and is included in the California State Railroad Museum, and the Smithsonian Museum of American History. Russell’s passion for research, family history, and story telling come together in a recently published novel entitled Three Coins: A Young Girl's Story of Kidnappings, Slavery, and Romance in 19th Century America.

Min Zhou is Professor of Sociology & Asian American Studies, Walter and Shirley Wang Endowed Chair in U.S.-China Relations & Communications, and Director of the UCLA Asia Pacific Center. She is an internationally renowned scholar in the areas of migration and development, race and ethnicity, entrepreneurship, refugee studies, Asian diasporas, and the sociology of Asia and Asian America. She has published 17 books and more than 180 journal articles and book chapters.



RSVP requested.

Aaron Miller


Sponsor(s): Asia Pacific Center, Asian American Studies Center, UCLA History-Geography Project, Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, Chinese Historical Society of Southern California, Chinese American Museum, Institute of American Cultures