This week, we feature a collection of photo slides taken and collected by Janet Zobel during her trip to the Peoples Republic of China in 1975. This collection of items was donated in her memory by Mr. Ben Pocock, a relative of Ms. Zobel.
In 1975, just three years after President Nixon’s historic visit to China, there would be sponsored group trips available for qualified U.S. citizens. Most Americans during this period would have to go through these sponsored group tours rather than apply directly since visas are rarely granted to single individuals. These sponsored trips are often run by organizations that are sympathetic to China and would focus on a particular subject matter, such as education, arts, etc.
One such sponsored trip was provided by an NYC-based newspaper known as The Guardian Radical Newsweekly, which was later known simply as The Guardian. During the 70s, the newspaper was known for favoring Marxist-Leninist ideologies and Maoist New Communist Movements, which may explain their ability to set up sponsored trips into mainland China.
An application was required to join such sponsored trips, and Janet had applied as an educator and labor and civil rights activist interested in learning about the development of China’s economic system. She along with a cohort of like-minded educators and unionists would be permitted to travel to China and visit designated landmarks, factories, military bases, schools, and Chinese communes (rural organizations and/or agricultural collectives).
Specific destinations included historical cities such as Peking (Beijing), Chengchow (Zhengzhou), Loyang (Luoyang), and Sian (Xi’an). Based on the records of the collection, there is a myriad of shots ranging from tombs to factory floors to school classrooms. Janet would later transform the photographs she took in China to create slides for presentations throughout the course of her lifelong career as an activist and speaker.