The year 2019 is the sesquicentennial of the completion of the United States first transcontinental railroad. The history of the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific Railroads abounds in instructive and compelling case studies very much worth contemplating in our times. This event will feature a presentation by Stanford Professor Gordon Chang, author of the recently published and much-admired book, Ghosts of Gold Mountain: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad. Books will be available for purchase and a book signing. We have also recruited the artist Zhi Lin, from the University of Washington, who has created powerful works memorializing the Chinese railroad laborers. In Center of the American West fashion, this program will also draw on “CU Boulder talent” reflecting on the larger lessons for the building of infrastructure (in China as well as in the U.S.) as well as the power of art to invoke deeper thinking about history.

Presented by the Center of the American West, the Center for Asian Studies, the Center for Documentary and Ethnographic Media, the Department of Art and Art History, and the Department of History. This event is also made possible by a grant from the Research and Innovation Office.

Photo credit: Building the Transcontinental Railroad – Getty Images.



1:00 – 2:30 p.m. – Empire, Infrastructure, and Labor

Taylor Jaworski – Economics, CU Boulder

Patty Limerick – Faculty Director and Chair of the Board, Center of the American West, CU Boulder

Tim Oakes – Director of the Center for Asian Studies, CU Boulder


2:45 – 4:15 p.m. – Art and the Transcontinental Railroad

Screening: Chinese Ghost Story: A Dan Boord and Luis Valdovino film

Dan Boord – Professor Emeritus, Critical Media Practices, CU Boulder

Zhi Lin – Chair of the Painting and Drawing Program at the University of Washington

Stephanie Su – Art and Art History, CU Boulder

Luis Valdovino – Art and Art History, CU Boulder

William Wei – History, CU Boulder and Colorado State Historian


4:15 – 5:15 p.m. – Light Reception


5:30 – 6:30 p.m. – Working on the Railroad: Chinese Workers and America’s First Transcontinental Line – CANCELLED

Gordon Chang, Professor of American History & Olive H. Palmer Professor in Humanities, Stanford University, Athearn Lecturer


6:30 – 7:15 p.m. – Book Signing CANCELLED

Gordon Chang of Ghosts of Gold Mountain: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad