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Learn history of Chinese laborers at railroad lecture

Karl Horeis

Chinese Americans were “workin’ on the railroad” and cutting timber in this area in the late 1800s — helping to tame the West.

Dr. Sue Fawn Chung, who earned her doctorate in east Asian history and art history from the University of California at Berkeley, will give a free lecture about their influence Wednesday at the Nevada State Railroad Museum.

Chung, who received her master’s from Harvard University, started teaching at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas in 1975. She is currently a professor at UNLV and is writing a book about Chinese American railroad workers and their spin-off occupations such as cutting timber.

The lecture, called “I’ve Been Workin’ for the Railroad: Chinese Americans and the Building of the American Railroads,” will start at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Chinese crews endured long shifts and dangerous conditions in the race to build a railroad across the United States. They worked with heavy equipment and unstable explosives such as nitroglycerine and black powder. Snow in the Rockies and Sierra came down in avalanches sweeping laborers off cliffs.

Chung is a consultant to the U.S. Forest Service for the excavation of two Chinese American archeological sites — including the one near Spooner Summit. She is also a member of the Nevada Board of Museums and History, an advisor to Preserve Nevada, a member of the Board of Advisors for the Diversity council of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

She will appear on television during the 2003 American Experience series on PBS where she will talk about the building of the Central Pacific Railroad. Central Pacific employed almost 10,000 Chinese workers whereas Union Pacific laborers were mainly of European decent.

IF YOU GO

What: Lecture on Chinese Americans and the building of the American railroads

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Nevada State Railroad Museum, 2180 S. Carson St.

Call: 687-6953