Germans and African Americans

Germans and African Americans: Two Centuries of Exchange

Larry A. Greene
Anke Ortlepp
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 304
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    Germans and African Americans
    Book Description:

    Germans and African Americans, unlike other works on African Americans in Europe, examines the relationship between African Americans and one country, Germany, in great depth.Germans and African Americans encountered one another within the context of their national identities and group experiences. In the nineteenth century, German immigrants to America and to such communities as Charleston and Cincinnati interacted within the boundaries of their old-world experiences and ideas and within surrounding regional notions of a nation fracturing over slavery. In the post-Civil War era in America through the Weimar era, Germany became a place to which African American entertainers, travelers, and intellectuals such as W. E. B. Du Bois could go to escape American racism and find new opportunities. With the rise of the Third Reich, Germany became the personification of racism, and African Americans in the 1930s and 1940s could use Hitler's evil example to goad America about its own racist practices. Postwar West Germany regained the image as a land more tolerant to African American soldiers than America. African Americans were important to Cold War discourse, especially in the internal ideological struggle between Communist East Germany and democratic West Germany. Unlike many other countries in Europe, Germany has played a variety of different and conflicting roles in the African American narrative and relationship with Europe. It is this diversity of roles that adds to the complexity of African American and German interactions and mutual perceptions over time.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-785-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. vii-2)

    Germany and African Americans, in the minds of most citizens of the United States, have very little connection. Many were astounded at the more than 200,000 Germans who turned out to hear President Barack obama in 2008, then Democratic Party candidate, speak in his Berlin visit. For many of those surprised Americans, the only connection they could determine was a vague remembrance of black soldiers stationed with the U.S. military in Germany at the end of World War II through the Cold War era in the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany). Although nearly 3,000,000 black soldiers were stationed on...

  4. Prologue African Americans in the German Democratic Republic
    (pp. 3-16)

    When the Soviet authorities hunted for a location for deserters from western armies, why did they choose the city of Bautzen for what was to become a small but unusual experiment in internationalism affecting, among others (including myself), a handful of African Americans? Certainly not because it was so ancient. Bautzen, first recorded as a city in 1002, had been hit again and again by city conflagrations, battles and sieges by Hussites, Saxons, Swedes and, last of all, when the Nazis decided to make it a fortress city, by the Red Army. A few ruins or empty lots resulting from...

  5. An Unexpected Alliance August Willich, Peter H. Clark, and the Abolitionist Movement in Cincinnati
    (pp. 17-36)

    “A German has only to be a German to be utterly opposed to slavery. In feeling, as well as in conviction and principle, they are anti-slavery,” penned Frederick Douglass, the famous black abolitionist and newspaperman, in August 1859. Douglass later modified his statement, welcoming above all “the many noble and high-minded men, most of whom, swept over by the tide of the revolution in 1849, have become our active allies in the struggle against oppression and prejudice.”¹ Douglass’s assessment of the immigrant revolutionaries from German lands, although overblown, is understandable. In fact, the liberal and radical “Forty-Eighters” were anything but...

  6. German Immigrants and African Americans in Charleston, South Carolina, 1850—1880
    (pp. 37-49)

    Most scholarship dealing with the south during the mid- to late nineteenth century supports a black/white paradigm and ignores the racial and ethnic diversity in the region (see Holt, DuBois, Foner; Powers 1994; Rabinowitz; Williamson). The recent investigations of German communities in the region have revealed complexities that reject the black/white paradigm (see Bauman; Greenberg; and Page). However, the scholarship on the Germans in Charleston has not challenged the longstanding assumption that the Germans had become white southerners prior to the Civil War (see Bell 9–28; Reinert 49). Moreover, scant scholarship focuses on the ways interaction between Germans and...

  7. Louis Douglas and the Weimar Reception of Harlemania
    (pp. 50-69)

    InBlack People: Entertainers of African Descent in Europe and Germany, Rainer E. Lotz reintroduces an African American performer who attained the status of a cultural icon in Weimar, Germany, only to be almost completely forgotten a generation later. Louis W. Douglas (1889–1939), a native of Philadelphia (Pennsylvania), had a remarkable show business career that over a little more than three decades took him to twenty-three countries in Europe, Africa, and Latin America. Although his career began before the First World War and ended with his untimely death just before the outbreak of the Second World War, Douglas enjoyed...

  8. Race in the Reich The African American Press on Nazi Germany
    (pp. 70-87)

    American entry into World War II heightened the already existing contradictions between America’s democratic rhetoric and the reality of America’s segregated society. It was that contradiction that initiated the modern African American civil rights movement led by an African American press, fully aware that these contradictions and the outbreak of World War II provided another opportunity in less than a quarter of a century to more forcefully continue the struggle for civil rights. An essential in that struggle involved drawing the parallel between Nazi Germany and the American south as two ideologically similar societies incompatible with America’s values.

    A sense...

  9. Field Trip into the Twilight A German Africanist Discovers the Black Bourgeoisie a Howard University, 1937—1939
    (pp. 88-104)

    Thus ends the preface of a remarkable narrative entitledForschungsreise in die Dämmerung: Aus den Aufzeichnungen und Dokumenten des Professors Smith über sein Leben an einer Negeruniversitätpublished in 1950 by the Rector of Leipzig university, Julius Lips. Thirteen years earlier he had taught in the Social Science division of Howard University in Washington, D.C., in his area of specialization, African ethnology, and this book is, as the subtitle has it “a chronicle and documentation” of that unique experience. His colleagues at Howard University included Ralph Bunche, E. Franklin Frazier, Alain Locke, Abram L. Harris, Charles wesley, and Emmet E....

  10. Love across the Color Line The Limits of German and American Democracy, 1945—1968
    (pp. 105-125)

    For many decades, research on the American military occupation in West Germany and the more than sixty-year lasting military presence has been concerned with high politics, the economy, and denazification.¹ It was not until the 1990s that a new generation of scholars turned to the social consequences of the U.S. presence. This more recent research has also raised the important issues of gender and race by exploring the sexual relationships between GIs and German women, and by incorporating African American GIs into the narrative of the U.S. occupation.² Some of that research is also concerned with how German debates on...

  11. The Erotics of African American Endurance, Or: On the Right Side of History? White (West)-German Public Sentiment between Pornotroping and Civil Rights Solidarity
    (pp. 126-140)

    This article first wants to zoom the reader back into the year 1974. Picture the Vietnam War, international student rebellion, the burgeoning of a radical white women’s movement, heated controversies about the validity and/or ethics of what called itself revolutionary violence, the beginnings of the green movement, and, on the other side: militant clashes between police forces and mass demonstrations, a massive push for the expansion of state executive power over and against democratic transparency, an intense step-up of federal state security. Picture the cold war still on its peak. Then look again. Picture West-Germany, without hip-hop being the backbone...

  12. “Nazi Jim Crow” Hans Jürgen Massaquoi”s Democratic Vistas on the Black Atlantic and Afro-Germans in Ebony
    (pp. 141-165)

    Like Hughes’s evocation of European immigrant dreams about a democratic haven of freedom across the Atlantic, Hans Jürgen Massaquoi’s writings are crossovers in more than one sense. He grew up in Hamburg during the tumultuous years of the Weimar Republic as the son of a Liberian consul and a German mother. Having survived the terror of National Socialist persecution, he moved to Liberia in 1948. Later, Massaquoi forged a career in journalism and became the managing editor ofEbony, the most influential African American magazine in the United States. His tricultural background has made him particularly sensitive toward patterns of...

  13. A Raisin in the East African American Civil Rights Drama in GDR Scholarship and Theater Practice
    (pp. 166-184)

    While the official image of the United States propagated in the GDR was that of a stronghold of political reaction and center of imperialist aggression, East German popular and intellectual images of America were more complex and diversified (cf. Schnoor 2001a, passim; Schnoor 2001b, passim). Based on Lenin’s dictum that each society contains two cultures, a reactionary one and a progressive, proletarian, socialist culture (cf. Lenin 1960, 209), even the official political doctrine differentiated between the United States as the key embodiment of capitalist reaction and imperialism on the one hand and the American people as containing, besides the “bourgeois”...

  14. Ollie Harrington His Portrait Drawn on the Basis of East German (GDR) Secret Service Files
    (pp. 185-200)

    Oliver Wendell Harrington was a major black American leftist writer, journalist, and cartoonist with the leading African American newspapers. After his self-imposed exile in Paris, he lived in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) from 1961 until his death in 1995. Harrington was a pioneer African American cartoonist whose social and political commentary was widely read in the 1940s.¹

    Harrington was born in Valhalla, Westchester County, New York, on February 14, 1912. Though he later tried to present himself differently, at least in the United States in 1991,² Harrington was raised by an African American middle-class family under relatively privileged circumstances....

  15. Exploding Hitler and Americanizing Germany Occupying “Black” Bodies and Postwar Desire
    (pp. 201-217)

    Through an analysis of the figure of the “African American” GI in film, in popular culture, and in the daily life of post–World War II Germany this article explores the ways in which the presence of these occupying “black” bodies reconfigure social imaginations of “blackness,” America, and processes of Americanization. It examines the shift from an era in which Billy Holiday identified black bodies as strange fruit swinging from southern trees to an era in which black bodies become a new way in which America can be accessed and Germany will be occupied. In the post–World War II...

  16. Reconstructing “America” The Development of African American Studies in the Federal Republic of Germany
    (pp. 218-230)

    In this article, I discuss the development of African American Studies in the Federal Republic of Germany since the 1950s. My contribution thus reflects a West German perspective; it is based primarily on the annals of theGerman Association for American Studies(Deutsche Gesellschaft für Amerikastudien, DGfA).¹ Although I will occasionally refer to parallel developments in the German Democratic Republic, this is not a history of African American Studies in East Germany. Other contributors to this volume such as Astrid Haas cover various aspects of East German scholars’ inquiries into African American literature and culture. A comprehensive picture of African...

  17. Contributors
    (pp. 231-233)
  18. Index
    (pp. 234-244)