A sociologist of science and engineering and member of Science for the People, Britta Fischer traveled to the People's Republic of China in 1978 as part of a tour arranged by the U.S.-China Peoples Friendship Association. Organized in 1974 to foster people-to-people diplomacy and a vision of veteran civil rights activist Unita Blackwell, the USCPFA sponsored speakers, seminars, and cultural exchanges with the PRC, and became one the first groups to organize tours to China from the United States.
The 449 color slides (35 mm.) that comprise the U.S.-China Peoples Friendship Association collection document a tour to the PRC undertaken at the height of agitation over the Gang of Four. Beyond simple touristic scenes, the collection depicts a state-sponsored version of everyday life in China during the early post-Mao era.
The collection is open for research.
Background on U.S.-China Peoples Friendship Association
In 1978, Britta Fischer, a doctoral student in the sociology of science and engineering at Washington University, took part in a tour of the People's Republic of China. A member of the radical organization, Science for the People, Fischer traveled to China, then in the throes of adjusting to the post-Mao order, with the U.S.-China Peoples Friendship Association, one of the first American organizations devoted to fostering people-to-people diplomacy between the United States and the China.
The founder of the USCPFA, veteran civil rights activist Unita Blackwell, toured China with a woman's delegation in 1973, and conceived the idea of engaging in person-to-person diplomacy as a means of improving mutual understanding and strengthening the bonds of friendship between the nations. From its earliest days, the USCPFA pursued its goals by sponsoring a diverse slate of speakers, seminars, cultural and student exchanges, art exhibitions, and language classes throughout the United States, and they published and distributed a range of materials, including the US China Review. Perhaps most notably, they became pioneers in organizing tours of China, and for several years they were virtually the only option for American citizens to visit the People's Republic. Reaching its peak in the 1980s, the Association remains a national organization with four semi-autonomous regional branches and 35 local chapters.
The 449 color slides (35 mm.) that comprise the U.S.-China Peoples Friendship Association collection document one of the group's early tours of the People's Republic of China, undertaken at the height of the agitation over the Gang of Four. The tour included visits to the Great Wall, Beijing, Shanghai, Jinan, Nanjing, and Yangzhou, taking in typical touristic sites along with visits to schools, factories, workers' houses, and the countryside. Beyond simple touristic scenes, the collection depicts a state-sponsored version of everyday life in China during the early post-Mao era.
The photographs in the collection were identified by the photographer Britta Fischer, a member of a tour group in 1978, and are listed in the inventory below with original spellings and minor editing for punctuation or expansion of abbreviations. At the end of the collection are a series of sixty images of "old China (1906)," of uncertain provenance.
Gift of Britta Fischer with the assistance of Sigrid Schmalzer, 2010.
Processed by I. Eliot Wentworth, June 2013.
A substantial body of records of the USCPFA are located in the Manuscripts and Archives Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences Library, New York Public Library (MssCol 6176).
Selected images in the collection have been scanned and are available online through our digital repository, Credo.
Cite as: U.S.-China Peoples Friendship Association Photograph Collection (PH 054). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.