W.E.B. and Shirley Graham Du Bois in China with Dr. Gao Yunxiang

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In this episode we interview Dr. Gao Yunxiang. Dr. Gao is professor of history at Toronto Metropolitan University and the author of Sporting Gender: Women Athletes and Celebrity-Making during China’s National Crisis, 1931-1945. For this conversation we are honored to have Dr. Gao join us to talk about her book Arise, Africa! Roar, China! Black and Chinese Citizens of the World in the Twentieth Century. It is a very interesting book that examines the lives and interconnectedness of three seminal figures of the Black Left in W.E.B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson, and Langston Hughes as well as two very interesting Chinese internationalist cultural workers and activists Liu Liangmo and Sylvia Si-lan Chen. Of course in examining Du Bois and Robeson the work also examines the politics and lives of Shirley Graham Du Bois and Eslanda Robeson.

We initially planned to have a conversation on the whole book for this episode, but due to some time constraints we recorded this as a part 1 primarily focusing on W.E.B. Du Bois and Shirley Graham Du Bois and Yunxiang’s scholarship on them which breaks ground from archival sources that have often been ignored by western academics due to lack of access to Chinese archives or due to linguistic barriers. At a later date we plan to record an additional conversation that looks more in-depth at the other central figures in Dr. Gao’s book, namely Langston Hughes, Si-Lan Chen, Liu Liangmo and the Robesons.

This discussion examines the conversation behind the famous photo of W.E.B. Du Bois laughing with Chairman Mao, the impact of Shirley Graham Du Bois and Eslanda Robeson on their husband’s views toward Communist China, and why Shirley Graham Du Bois is buried in China. As well as, how she navigated the Sino-Soviet split and her role within China through the shifting landscapes of Chinese Communist policy, including the Cultural Revolution.

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Documentary on Du Bois in China mentioned in the episode.

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