Between 1865 and 1869, thousands of Chinese laborers worked under perilous conditions and at a grueling pace to help finish the construction of the nation’s first transcontinental railroad. Yet, these contributions have been all too often overlooked and neglected in celebrations of this monumental achievement. The laborers’ hard work under low pay was viewed as a looming threat to local laborers. The hostility toward Chinese immigrants thus escalated, eventually culminating in the passing of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, which remained in effect until 1943.
On display in the 2nd floor Study Commons area of Gleeson is a new exhibit paying tribute to the Chinese workers who were instrumental in building the nation’s first Transcontinental Railroad nearly 150 years ago. Produced by the Chinese Historical Society of America (CHSA) and the Chinese Railroad Workers Project at Stanford University (CRRW), the exhibit utilizes graphic panels to feature historical and contemporary photos, illustrations, stories of descendants of the workers, accompanied by bilingual Chinese/English text written by Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project at Stanford University (CRRW).