The East Is Black

Cold War China in the Black Radical Imagination

The East Is Black

Book Pages: 328 Illustrations: 33 illustrations Published: December 2014

Subjects
African American Studies and Black Diaspora, American Studies, Asian Studies > East Asia

During the Cold War, several prominent African American radical activist-intellectuals—including W.E.B. and Shirley Graham Du Bois, journalist William Worthy, Marxist feminist Vicki Garvin, and freedom fighters Mabel and Robert Williams—traveled and lived in China. There, they used a variety of media to express their solidarity with Chinese communism and to redefine the relationship between Asian struggles against imperialism and black American movements against social, racial, and economic injustice. In The East Is Black, Taj Frazier examines the ways in which these figures and the Chinese government embraced the idea of shared struggle against U.S. policies at home and abroad. He analyzes their diverse cultural output (newsletters, print journalism, radio broadcasts, political cartoons, lectures, and documentaries) to document how they imagined communist China’s role within a broader vision of a worldwide anticapitalist coalition against racism and imperialism.

Praise

"One of the distinguishing features of this book is the careful analysis of multiple forms of media, and also, more especially, the inclusion of both popular and more specialized political journalism." — Leslie James, American Historical Review

"The East Is Black deepens studies on transnational political activism and knowledge travels. Well organized and accessible, this book will work well in upper-division undergraduate and graduate seminars on African American studies, media studies, and U.S. Cold War history." — Cindy I-Fen Cheng, Journal of American History

"As it stands, Robeson Taj Frazier has written a monumentally successful monograph that is close to flawless in assessing other horizons and limits of Cold War China for Black radicals. Frazier has helped to raise the bar for future scholars assessing what C. L.R. James once called the "rise and fall" of world revolution." — Bill V. Mullen, Black Scholar

"The East is Black is a brilliant work that explores how the People’s Republic of China (prc) inspired the political imaginations of African American radicals during the Cold War.... Overall, The East is Black is a delight to read. Frazier writes in a fluid and compelling manner... [the book] should attract a broad readership among academics and students who are interested in race and radicalism in the United States and Asia." — Judy Tzu-Chun Wu, The Journal of American-East Asian Relations

"Frazier’s The East is Black is a deeply nuanced and well-researched book that enriches the literature on twentieth century black internationalism.... Through careful and in-depth analysis, Frazier has written an important study, which will enhance undergraduate and graduate course syllabi on a range of topics including Race and Ethnicity, Transnationalism, and the modern African Diaspora." — Keisha N. Blain, American Studies

"...this work is grounded on solid scholarship and direct access to archives, and it links lives, anecdotes, archives (textual, visual) and historical context in a meaningful way. It will certainly become a reference in this domain." — Jean Khalfa, The China Quarterly

"An interdisciplinary work that operates in the fields of media, cold war, intersectionality, social movement, and cultural studies, not to mention African American and Chinese history, The East Is Black advances an array of academic and political debates." — John Munro, Canadian Journal of History

"The East is Black is a compelling account of transnational interaction between American black political radicals and China from the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949 until the 1970s. Robeson Taj Frazier’s book is a valuable addition to an exploding historiography on transnational contacts between individuals and groups separated by territorial borders but united by commonalities beyond the nation-state." — Pete Millwood, History

"It is abundantly clear that Frazier’s impressive, granular attention to detail is, in part, what opens up the admirably novel analytical spaces—and affective registers—his study occupies. The East Is Black calmly forgoes the nostalgia for the romance of anti-colonial struggle that pervades much scholarship on Afro-Asian solidarity from the last fifteen years. Instead, Frazier supplements this worthwhile tendency with a commitment to lingering with the fragments, the frustrations, of a struggle that wasn’t to be—a project he enacts expertly, in a manner that bears repeating." — Ajay Kumar Batra, Amerasia Journal

"This lucidly written and carefully constructed history of black radicals in Cold War politics will appeal to many academic disciplines and can easily be adapted in graduate seminars as well as upper-level undergraduate courses." — Ousman M. Kobo, H-Diplo, H-Net Reviews

"The East Is Black manages to be relevant to a myriad of intellectual fields and perspectives while retaining its historical specificity and narrative integrity. Scholars who are similarly intrigued by China's Third Worldist politics and alliances will find Frazier's text a heartening contribution to post-colonial studies in the Sinophone world." — Sophia Azeb, Frontiers of Literary Studies in China

"The East is Black helps expand the geographic and cultural boundaries of scholarly understandings of the black radical imagination. Frazier’s detailed analysis of the dynamic terrain of Third Worldism, anti-imperialism, and black radicalism insightfully illustrates how African Americans engaged with a fluid global color line in pursuit of a transnational solidarity against white racial capitalism. The study is well worth reading for scholars of African American politics and intellectual thought, but should be equally rewarding for students of modern global history and the Cold War." — Joseph Parrott, H-Afro-Am, H-Net Reviews

"In this masterful and beautifully written book, Robeson Taj Frazier executes a remarkable feat by braiding inextricably the foremost domestic reform of the past half-century—the collapse of Jim Crow—with the most important global trend of this same period: the rise of China."
— Gerald Horne, author of The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America

"The East Is Black is one of the most brilliant examinations of the possibilities and limits of the global radical imaginary to appear in the last quarter century. In charting the encounters of six black intellectuals/activists with Mao's China, Frazier offers a sophisticated, sobering view of transnational solidarity. He skillfully peels back the romantic exterior of revolution, revealing a complex set of misunderstandings, misrepresentations, and political dissembling alongside powerful moments of recognition and revelation. If, as Stuart Hall famously wrote, 'hegemony is hard work,' then Frazier demonstrates that global counter-hegemony is even harder." — Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Africa Speaks, America Answers: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Robeson Taj Frazier is Assistant Professor at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Abbreviations ix

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction: March of the Volunteers 1

Part I. The 1950s: Losing China, Winning China 22

1. Ruminations on Eastern Passage 37

2. A Passport Ain't Worth a Cent 72

Part II. The 1960s: The East Is Red and Black 108

3. Soul Brothers and Soul Sisters of the East 117

4. Maoism and the Sinification of Black Political Struggle 159

Coda. The 1970s: Rapprochement and the Decline of China's World Revolution 193

Postscript: Weaving through San Huan Lu 213

Glossary 221

Notes 225

Bibliography 277

Index 303
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