Arise Africa, Roar China

Black and Chinese Citizens of the World in the Twentieth Century

By Yunxiang Gao

408 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 49 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-6460-6
    Published: December 2021
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-6461-3
    Published: December 2021

John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture

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Awards & distinctions

Honorable Mention, 2022 Robert H. Ferrell Book Prize, Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations

Shortlisted, 2022 Wallace K. Ferguson Prize, Canadian Historical Association

This book explores the close relationships between three of the most famous twentieth-century African Americans, W. E. B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson, and Langston Hughes, and their little-known Chinese allies during World War II and the Cold War—journalist, musician, and Christian activist Liu Liangmo, and Sino-Caribbean dancer-choreographer Sylvia Si-lan Chen. Charting a new path in the study of Sino-American relations, Gao Yunxiang foregrounds African Americans, combining the study of Black internationalism and the experiences of Chinese Americans with a transpacific narrative and an understanding of the global remaking of China's modern popular culture and politics. Gao reveals earlier and more widespread interactions between Chinese and African American leftists than accounts of the familiar alliance between the Black radicals and the Maoist Chinese would have us believe. The book’s multilingual approach draws from massive yet rarely used archival streams in China and in Chinatowns and elsewhere in the United States. These materials allow Gao to retell the well-known stories of Du Bois, Robeson, and Hughes alongside the sagas of Liu and Chen in a work that will transform and redefine Afro-Asia studies.

About the Author

Gao Yunxiang is professor of history at Toronto Metropolitan University, and author of  Sporting Gender: Women Athletes and Celebrity-Making during China’s National Crisis, 1931-1945.
For more information about Yunxiang Gao, visit the Author Page.


"Gao is by any measure a talented and engaging writer who brings her fascinating subjects vividly to life. . . . Gao tells a good story, actually five, and tells them very well. That the stories and protagonists are all linked yields a book is far more than the sum of its parts."—Asian Review of Books

"Profoundly impressed . . . and dazzled by the creative approach [Gao] took to documenting and contextualizing the many different kinds of connections that existed between W.E.B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson, Langston Hughes, Liu Liangmo, and Sylvia Silan Chen. . . . reveal[s] the potential of transnational history to tell enormous stories in exciting and revelatory ways. . . . truly excellent scholarship."—Sheyda Jahanbani, Chair of the Robert H. Ferrell Book Prize Committee at SHAFR

“This ambitious and innovative book makes a significant contribution to the scholarship in a number of fields, including African American studies, Black internationalism, China-U.S. relations, modern Chinese history, and, very importantly, transnational history. It offers an exhaustively researched, brilliantly structured, and beautifully written account of left-wing African Americans and diasporic Chinese activists reaching across national borders in their struggle for identity, camaraderie, and solidarity.”—Wang Xi, professor of History, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and Changjiang Professor of history, Peking University

Arise, Africa! Roar, China! examines the intertwined lives of people we usually think of as inhabiting nonoverlapping domains. Chinese active in the U.S. world of arts and letters during World War II came to know and work with prominent African American intellectuals: the Robesons, the Du Boises, Langston Hughes. Their relationships helped form Chinese views of the Black diaspora, as well as African American views of China’s place in the emergent project of anticolonial and racial liberation. Talking about transnational/transcultural history is easy; doing the work is difficult. Yunxiang Gao shows us that it can and should be done.”—Gail Hershatter, University of California, Santa Cruz

“In narrating the lives of these critical figures in transpacific relations, this impressively well-researched book makes a major contribution to our understanding of what has been called Black internationalism, the idea of racial solidarity of nonwhite peoples against racism and colonial oppression.”—Marc Gallicchio, author of The African American Encounter with Japan and China: Black Internationalism in Asia, 1895–1945