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Chinese contribution to Transcontinental Railroad focus of Carnegie lecture
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The Carnegie Arts Center’s Sunday lecture series will be exploring the contribution of thousands of Chinese migrants in building America’s first Transcontinental Railroad at 2 p.m. June 12 at the Carnegie Art Center.

Hilton Obenzinger, Ph.D., a professor at Stanford University, will be speaking on the topic of “The Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project.” Obenzinger said the major project seeks to give a voice to Chinese migrants, who from 1865 to 1869, helped revolutionize transportation and united the nation’s east and west coasts.

Before the landmark railroad, it took up to six months and $1,000 to travel 2,000 miles by stagecoach.  The transcontinental railroad covered the same distance in just five days for $150 in a first-class sleeper.  It is considered one of the nation’s greatest technological achievements. The 150th anniversary of the building of the Transcontinental Railway was celebrated in 2015.  May 10, 2019 will mark the 150th anniversary of Leland Stanford’s driving the “golden spike” to unite the Central Pacific and Union Pacific to complete the railway.

Catherine Doo, the great-great granddaughter of a Chinese railroad worker and a regular Carnegie volunteer, attended a Stanford conference last year on the importance of documenting the contribution to the railroad effort by the Chinese. 

“Chinese railroad workers, up to 12,000 at any one time, supplied the majority of the labor, but have never received the recognition they deserve,” said Doo.  “I’m very pleased Stanford University is committed to telling their story.  It’s an important story.”

Doo brought the project to the attention of Carnegie Director Lisa McDermott, who enthusiastically approached Obenzinger about bringing his multi-media lecture to the Carnegie’s Sunday Arts Lecture Series.

“Our goal in the lecture series is to provide depth and dialogue in all areas of interest related to arts, culture and history,” McDermott said. “With the Carnegie building celebrating its 100th anniversary year, this historical topic was a natural fit for our program.”

A reception featuring Chinese treats and light refreshments will follow the lecture.