The 1950s: Losing China, Winning China
Chapter 1 tracks W. E. B. Du Bois and Shirley Graham Du Bois's 1959 journey to China. Besides pointing to the selective perceptions and differences distinguishing their accounts of this visit, this chapter explores how the couple's representations of this travel bring into light the achievements and contradictions of China’s postrevolutionary phase, particularly the government’s efforts to conceal foreign visitors from the impact of its political repression and economic mismanagement on Chinese life. The chapter closes by putting the couple’s visit in conversation with Worlds of Color, one Du Bois’s final works. In this historical novel, Du Bois theorized travel and the political imagination as radical, though limited, modes of perception and community formation. Ultimately, this chapter argues that Du Bois’ model offers a productive starting-point to unpack the politics of travel, media, and radical imagining cultivated by the other black renegade travelers to China considered in this book.