Descendants of Chinese Railroad Workers Bring Their Stories to San Francisco Public Library


The Library hosts a community event to celebrate Silent Spikes: Following in the Footprints of Chinese Railroad Workers, an exhibit on view at the Main Library through May 22, 2022 

San Francisco, March 2, 2022 - San Francisco Public Library, Chinese Railroad Workers Descendants Association and Chinatown History & Culture Association joined forces to present the Silent Spikes: Following in the Footprints of Chinese Railroad Workers exhibit, which is currently on view in San Francisco Main Library through May 22, 2022. Since its opening, the exhibit has garnered an outpouring of public support from the Chinese community who are touched by the story of the intrepid Chinese railroad workers who helped build the country. On March 12 at 11 a.m., the Main Library will host a community gathering in honor of the exhibit where the public is invited to bring mementos and stories of ancestors who played a role in this important historical event.  

The event will include a screening of the documentary film Crossing Donner Summit by Min Zhou. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion with Historian Connie Yong Yu, Professor Anna Ng, Historian David Lei, Professor Baraba L. Voss and Director Min Zhou hosted by George Chin, director of Chinatown History & Culture Association. 

Following in the Footprints of Chinese Railroad Workers, honors Chinese railroad workers who helped build the Central Pacific western portion of the Transcontinental Railroad. Their story is told through historical images and contemporary photos from a variety of sources. Chief among them are those by Beijing-based freelance photographer Li Ju that chronicle the route from Sacramento to Promontory Summit. The images underscore the tremendous achievement of the largely anonymous 12,000-20,000 Chinese construction workers who connected the United States from west to east.  

“Our goal is to honor the Chinese railroad workers’ contribution to the Central Pacific - Transcontinental Railroad,” says exhibit curator Nancy Yu Law. “To accomplish this mission, unity among the various advocate groups will be essential. We want the public to have an opportunity to learn more about a critical part of Chinese history in America with the help of San Francisco Public Library. Our hope is that the Chinese contributions to the formation of this country will be better represented in our textbook and in school curriculums for our future generations to learn and remember.” 

“In the 1860s, our ancestors organized a strike to fight against injustice towards Asians.  We must learn from our ancestors who fought for their rights,” says Larry Yee, president of Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association. “Now it is our time to fight. If we could do it 160 years ago, we can do it today. We must be role models for those who will follow in our footsteps. This is not just a fight for us today. This is a fight for the next generation.  United we stand!” 


Community Celebration in Honor of Chinese Railroad Workers 

WHEN: March 12, 11 a.m.  

WHERE: San Francisco Main Library, 100 Larkin Street, Koret Auditorium, lower level 


  • Surprise play-reenactment of Chinese Railroad Workers install the last spike 

  • Invited Guest Speakers:  Government Officials, Chinatown Community Leaders, and Descendants of Chinese Railroad Workers 

  • Ribbon Cutting: Government Officials and Chinatown Community Leaders    

  • Documentary Film: Crossing Donner Summit by Min Zhou 

  • Panel Discussion: Historian Connie Yong Yu, Professor Anna Ng, Director Min Zhou, Historian David Lei, President of CCBA Larry Yee, Barbara L. Voss. Director, Stanford Archaeology Center. Professor, Department of Anthropology 

About San Francisco Public Library  
San Francisco Public Library is dedicated to free and equal access to information, knowledge, independent learning and the joys of reading for our diverse community. The library system is made up of 27 neighborhood branches, the San Francisco Main Library at Civic Center and four bookmobiles. To learn more, please visit and follow on Twitter @SFPublicLibrary and on Instagram @sfpubliclibrary. 

Media Contacts: 
Kate Patterson I 415-557-4252 

Chinese: Yuen Chan 

March 2, 2022