Blackness in Modern China: W.E.B. Du Bois and Chinese Representations of Blackness

“How does it feel, as a Black person, to travel in China?”

When first posed with this question, I found it difficult to articulate the complexities of the seemingly simple yet multi-faceted question because of the embedded subtext. In a roundabout way, I was being asked if Black bodies in East Asia, specifically China, were racialized and marginalized through similar processes that occur in the U.S.

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Left: Vickie Garvin with Leibel Bergman in 1960s China (image: Lincoln and Miranda Bergman); Right: Cover of the program for Aubrey Pankey’s 1955 concert in Shanghai, China (image: Wikipedia)
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W.E.B. Du Bois meeting Chinese Premier Mao Zedong in 1959 (Image: Wikipedia)
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W.E.B. DuBois watching a National Day parade in the PRC, 1962 (Image: Department of Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst)
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Keisha A. Brown, traveling through southern China in 2005.

Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, Harvard University

The Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at @Harvard…

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