Barry McNamara  |  Published September 21, 2023

‘Boxcar People’

Monmouth, Knox colleges to collaborate for screening, discussion of documentary featuring immigrants in Galesburg.

'BOXCAR PEOPLE': The 2013 documentary will be screened at Monmouth College on Sept. 24. T... 'BOXCAR PEOPLE': The 2013 documentary will be screened at Monmouth College on Sept. 24. Two days later in Galesburg, a panel discussion about the film will be held at Knox College.MONMOUTH, Ill. – Monmouth College and Knox College will join together to retell the tale of Galesburg’s Boxcar People.

Written and produced by Will and Luz Schick in 2013, Boxcar People tells the story of Mexican workers recruited in the early 1900s to work the railroads in Galesburg.

Boxcar People will be shown at Monmouth College at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 24 in the Pattee Auditorium, which is located on the lower level of the Center for Science and Business. A discussion of the documentary will follow.

At 6:30 p.m. Sept. 26, a panel discussion on Boxcar People will be held at the Knox College Hope Center. Both the screening of the one-hour documentary and the panel discussion are free and open to the public.

Regina Johnson, director of Monmouth’s Champion Miller Center for Student Equity, Inclusion and Community, helped to bring the film to campus, along with Sabino Luévano-Ortega, a faculty member in the College’s Spanish and Latin American studies departments.

On the Knox side, Tianna Cervantez, associate dean of students and director of intercultural life, played a key role and also has a family connection to the documentary’s subject.

At a time when Mexico was torn apart by a bloody civil war, American industry went to Mexico looking for workers to replace the men who had gone off to fight in World War I. To a culture centered on family, the railroads were particularly attractive to Mexicans displaced by chaos and war. The rail companies provided not just a job, but a place to raise a family. Each worker was offered a home – in the form of a boxcar.

Using historic film, original testimonials and photos from the actual inhabitants of the boxcar camps, Boxcar People goes beyond descriptions of horrible living conditions, dangerous and back-breaking work, and harsh discrimination to tell the tale of a proud people with strong traditions and deep faith who came to love their adopted country and all the opportunities it offered.

Boxcar People is a truly inspiring story of immigrants rising up against all odds. It sheds light upon a rarely heard history of Galesburg and its Mexican population in context of national history. It also puts a local face on the national issues of the generations of immigrants who have built this country and fought its wars, but still struggle with acceptance and civil rights.

The documentary features original music by Daniel Godsil, a former member of the music faculty at both Monmouth and Knox.

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