Voices from Donner Summit and the Bottom of the South China Sea
– Stories of Chinese Railroad Workers Built the US Transcontinental Railroad
On October 6, 2016, Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs and US China Railroad Friendship Association held a ” Voices from Donner Summit and the Bottom of the South China Sea – Stories of Chinese Railroad Workers Built the US Transcontinental Railroad “, documentary premiere and book presentation at the San Francisco Chinatown Great Star Theater. The event was co-organized by the Angel Island Immigration Association, Committee of 100, the Chinese Historical Society of America and the San Francisco State University. The event has received attention and support from all walks of life, including Fiona Ma, chairman of the California Tax Equality Committee; David Chiu, representing San Francisco in California State Assembly; Jane Kim, San Francisco Board of Supervisors; and Leslie E. Wong, president of San Francisco State University. The descendants of the laborers also attended to celebrate the historical contributions of their ancestors.
Min Zhou directed and produced the documentary Crossing Donner Summit, which including one of a series of commemorative activities in 2015, Sightseeing Dream Train Ride from Oakland to Reno all the way to documents and artifacts left by Chinese workers and personal interviews. These precious historical stories began in May, 1865, with tens of thousands of Chinese laborers crossing the sea, participating in US rail projects and building the first Transcontinental railroad under very difficult circumstances.
In May 2015, the historical train generously provided by Union Pacific served a unique the Chinese history tour tracing the railroad from Sacramento to Reno, arranged in two days and one night. Along the route, a descendant of the Chinese worker Gene Chen was interviewed. His family’s collection included various memoirs. He said with emotion that his ancestors had been involved in the hard road construction project, but after the completion of the project, leaders of Chinese laborers were expelled from the Nevada mountains.
Robert S. Wells, wrote Voices from the Bottom of The South China Sea, a story of the “Oriental Titanic”. It describes a tragedy where more than 400 Chinese laborers, after completing the construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad, were preparing to return to home. While the ship was only a few hours from reaching China, a fire aboard ship killed everyone and sunk the ship.
The author collected valuable information for many years and tied the fragments together to create a story of a relatively obscure event that changed the course of history.
The guest speakers, including the documentary producers and authors, received enthusiastic response from the audience eager with questions and requests for autographs. With this valuable information, posterity will have a clear understanding of the legacy of the Chinese railroad workers.