Promoting Irish-American Culture
and Preserving Local Histories
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The 2017 Irish-American Crossroads Festival

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Saturday, March 25

Chinese and Irish Workers in the Construction of the Transcontinental Railroad

Saturday, March 25, 1:00pm-3:00pm Location: United Irish Cultural Center, St. Francis Room, 2700 45th Avenue, San Francisco Free event.

Join us for this event about the key roles and treatment of Chinese and Irish workers in creating the first transcontinental railroad in the United States.

Irish and Chinese workers were central to the completion of America’s first transcontinental railroad. A momentous development in U.S. and world history, this infrastructure project was a springboard for rapid U.S. continental expansion and helped pave the way for America’s rise to great-power status. However, we know little about the lives of the thousands of Irish and Chinese migrant workers whose toil and ingenuity brought the transcontinental railroad to fruition.

This presentation will provide a comparative perspective on the experiences of the Irish and Chinese who labored on the transcontinental railroad including their backgrounds, patterns of migration, work conditions, camp life, and situations after the last spike connecting the Central Pacific Railroad and Union Pacific Railroad was driven. It will also discuss Irish and Chinese relations and mutual attitudes and perceptions on and off these railroads. Although the dominant pattern in relations between the Irish and Chinese was racial conflict and economic competition, there were also instances of cooperation between both groups. Finally, this presentation will elicit discussion among presenters and audience members about ways to further knowledge and understanding of the Irish and Chinese interethnic dynamics, experiences, and contributions to building the transcontinental railroad.

The public is invited to join in this conversation and, if possible, share family stories or artifacts from this time period.

Gordon H. Chang, Professor of American History and Director of the Center for East Asian Studies at Stanford, and Barry P. McCarron, Assistant Professor and Faculty Fellow of Irish Studies at New York University, will lead a discussion about the roles and treatment of Irish Workers in the construction of the first Transcontinental Railroad in the United States.

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