Skip to content

Black History Month in Germany

Every February, millions of Americans and Canadians celebrate Black History Month, sometimes referred to as African-American History Month or African Heritage Month. While the month-long series of events discusses oppression and prejudices against people of color, the main aim is to recognize the rich history and culture and significant contributions to society made by people with African heritage.
The United Kingdom has a Black History Month in October of every year. The Sueddeutsche Zeitung wrote in February 2006 that the Initiative Schwarze Menschen in Deutschland ("Black People in Germany Initiative") has been organizing a Black History Month in Germany since 1990 but I have not found much information on their homepage.  In order to shed more light on the history and contributions of black people in Germany, the Atlantic Review has teamed up with Jewels in the Jungle blogger Bill, an African-American who has been living in Germany for years, as well as two Afro-German friends of his: Patrick and Patricia.

"Black Germans? Are you serious?"
Answer: Definitely! About.com guide Hyde Flippo, a retired teacher of German language, history, and literature in the U.S.A. provides some statistics and some history:
Black Germans? Non-Germans may be understandably surprised to learn that there are Afro-Germans (Afrodeutsche), but many Germans themselves are unaware of the concept of a German who is also black (ein Schwarzer). While compared to other minorities, such as the 2 million Turks living in Germany, blacks are definitely a tiny minority among Germany's 82 million people. While EU countries do not keep track of ethnicity, there are an estimated 300,000 to 500,000 Blacks living in Germany today.
The history of black people in Germany goes back much further than most people think. One of the first Africans known to have lived in Germany was Anton Wilhelm Amo (1703-1759). Born in what is today's Ghana, Amo came under the protection of the Duke (Herzog) of Wolfenbüttel in Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen) and grew up in the duke's castle. He was both the first African known to attend a German university (Halle) and the first to obtain a doctorate degree (in 1729). As a professor, under his preferred name of Antonius Guilelmus Amo Afer, he taught at two German universities and published several scholarly works, including a Latin treatise entitled De Arte Sobrie et Accurate Philosophandi (1736, "On the Art of Philosophizing Soberly and Accurately"). Knowing the level of his achievements, it is all the more surprising to learn that Amo returned to Africa in 1747. Most accounts claim the reason for his return to his native Africa was the racial discrimination he encountered in Germany.
Mr. Flippo provides a lot more information about African Americans in Germany and lists some famous Afro-Germans which includes well-known entertainers like Roberto Blanco (very popular with older Germans) and singer Xavier Naidoo (a big star with younger Germans), as well as two members of the German National Soccer Team (Gerald Asamoah, David Odonkor), and ZDF-TV network morning news anchor Cherno Jobatey.

While Germany does not have a series of big events labeled "Black History Month," there are nevertheless quite a few projects that highlight Afro-Germans. 

Below the jump, this Atlantic Review post presents some quotes from articles about various Afro-German artists and their views on life in Germany, followed by a few thoughts on the concept of Black History Month:
 
 
 
• The Sueddeutsche Zeitung interviewed the Nigerian-German musician Adé Bantu about Afro-German identity issues. Adé Bantu also founded the anti-racism Hip-Hop music project Brothers Keepers e.V. a non-profit organization with over 90 Afro-German musicians and performers including top stars Xavier Naidoo, Mamadee, Afrob, Samy Deluxe, Eased (Seeed), Patrice und Gentleman et Al.




 • The documentary "Yes I Am" describes the biographies of several Afro-German artists and "social acceptance of African-Germans offstage" ("gesellschaftliche Akzeptanz von Afrodeutschen abseits der Bühne"). The Hamburger Abendblatt writes that the documentary premiered in German cinemas on February 15, 2007. I imagine that this event could be considered part of a German Black History Month although no one has promoted the event as such.





• "African-German Filmmakers Hope to Open Up 'New Perspectives,'" writes David Gordon Smith in Spiegel International about a special series at the Berlin International Film Festival
(Berlinale):
The African-German community has a long history, but the sizeable minority is often overlooked in a country where being German is often considered to mean being white. Now a group of black German filmmakers is trying to change that. (...)
The series features six short films that aim to represent the breadth of black filmmaking in Germany -- from Yohannes' coming-of-age story, to
"You Are Welcome!," a documentary featuring interviews with German visitors to Ghana, to "Diver," a cartoon about a German superhero. However Yohannes emphasizes that black German filmmakers see themselves as complementing the mainstream. "We are not trying to segregate or differentiate ourselves," she says. "Rather, we're coming together in order to become visible."
They have a hard task ahead of them. Black Germans, who generally refer to themselves as Afrodeutsche or African-Germans, have to constantly fight to be accepted as German -- for many people within and outside Germany, being German is synonymous with being white.
It's not known exactly how many African-Germans live in Germany -- one legacy of the Holocaust is that census data in the country does not include ethnicity or religion -- but estimates range from 100,000 to 500,000. Many African-Germans are the offspring of Africans who came to Germany to work or study and married white Germans. A significant number grew up in East Germany, which had links to then-communist countries such as Mozambique. There is also a growing number of German citizens who immigrated as adults from sub-Saharan Africa.

The article continues to discuss stereotypical roles in German films and points out "There is no Denzel here" and that "black filmmakers in Germany have a lot of catching up to do compared with the United States, where the Black Filmmaker Foundation is an integral part of the filmmaking scene."
The "New Perspectives" series at the Berlinale is organized by the association Schwarze Filmschaffende in Deutschland (SFD) ("Black Artists in German Film").


• "New Perspectives" also features the documentary, "And We Were Germans," about one of the best-known African-Germans, Hans-Jürgen Massaquoi, who grew up in Germany during the Third Reich. His memoir "Destined to Witness: Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany" was a bestseller in Germany and was made into a TV movie, as the above Spiegel article points out.
The British Black Information Link describes Black Germans as "Hitler’s invisible victims:"
Their story is largely untold, their battle for compensation mostly fruitless. Thousands of African descent perished in Nazis concentration camps, the New Nation reports today. Many survivors have since died of old age, their place in history forgotten.This reporter spoke exclusively to two Afro-Germans, both in their 80s, who revealed their extraordinary story of living under an ever-present fear of death.

• The Atlantic Review has previously written about the musical "Martin Luther King - The King of Love" which premiered in Berlin on February 2, 2007 and will be performed in churches all over Germany. The well known German TV personality Ron Williams has written the musical and stars as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He has also starred in "One Night of Ray Charles - The Genius of Soul."

Ron Williams was born in California, joined the US Army's military police and came as a GI to Germany in the 60s. He was the first African-American radio-DJ at the US military radio station AFN. He has appeared in countless German shows on  stage and on TV. He is a singer, comedian, actor, entertainer, moderator etc. One of his latest projects Mr. Williams received the Federal Cross of Merit in 2004 from the President of the Federal Republic of Germany. Check out his homepage: RON WILLIAMS (mostly in German).

Bill, author of the Jewels in the Jungle blog, informed me that he once met Ron Williams in San Francisco back in the '90's while he was on a business trip in the Bay Area.  Bill described a scene from that chance meeting with Ron Williams as follows:  

I was having dinner with one of my German customers who was traveling with me at the time and we both spotted Ron having dinner a few tables over from us.  After we finished eating I strode over to his table and struck up a conversation with him "auf Deutsch".  You can imagine the look of shock on his face (and other guests) when these two black guys start up a conversation in perfect German in the middle of an elegant Chinese restaurant in San Francisco.  It was a most pleasant experience for both of us and I'm certain that he hasn't forgotten about it.  I certainly haven't.

Is Black History Month a good thing?
Should Germany celebrate such a month?

A Black History Month should not give the wrong impression of Afro-Germans trying to segregate or differentiate themselves, while in fact they just want to be more accepted and seen as ordinary Germans. See the above quote from the Spiegel International article or the above mentioned Sueddeutsche Zeitung interview with Adé Bantu, who says that the most shared common characteristic of black Germans is being German. Links to Africa are not very strong for most. (Perhaps someone could summarize the interview into English. That would be great.)
While an annual Black History Month is great to draw attention, it would be even better to focus on Afro-German contributions throughout the year rather than just during the annual Black History Month. The highschool curriculum for instance could include a bit about the first Africans in Europe and at least briefly mention Anton Wilhelm Amo, who was one of the first famous Afro-Germans. Germany’s genocide of the Herero in 1904 should be mandatory teaching in all high schools; in some it is. The news media and the entertainment programs could do more to change the common misperception of Afro-Germans as poor refugees from Africa, which is too often portrayed as the lost crisis continent without differentiation between individual countries. The profile of Afro-Germans seems to have improved significantly in the last twenty years or so, but more could be done.

A Black History Month in Germany could help create awareness and change some perceptions and attitudes.
Highlighting the contributions of black Germans or Afro-Germans (or whatever term you prefer) seems to be a good way to fight discrimination and stereotypes. It is probably more effective and appropriate than lecturing racists about "tolerance."

Ideally, a Black History Month would not be necessary in Germany after celebrating it for a decade or so. The attention created during such a month would ideally end most stereotypes and discrimination. Though even in the US, there still seems to be a need for Black History Month. Thus one should not expect too much from a Black History Month in Germany.
 
Christopher Borrelli writes in Ohio's Toledo Blade about "Rethinking Black History Month" in the United States:
Johnny Mickler looks over his dance card and exhales. It’s full, stuffed, overstuffed, and at the time, it’s not even February yet. Oh, there will be more to come, he says. More. Just... more. More appointments to keep. More invitations to talk. More speeches to make. This being February — this being Black History Month — and Mr. Mickler being the president of the Greater Toledo Urban League, the man is busy. Way busier than, say, April. There’s a speech at Lourdes College. A talk at Owens Community College. A speech at Flower Hospital. A talk at Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church. A talk at Pickett Elementary School. An appearance at Cherry Elementary School. With more to come. It’s still early. February has 28 days. Mr. Mickler isn’t complaining. He will accept nearly every one of those invitations; he’s grateful for the attention. “Don’t get me wrong,” he says.
“I think it’s great we have Black History Month. We need Black History Month.” He just wonders where black history and African-American studies disappears to the moment February becomes March.
“It’s wonderful we get Black History Month, but the truth is it can trivialize things,” Mr. Mickler said. “We are part of American history. African-American history is American history, and it should be better integrated with school curriculums, better mixed into everyday life. Instead it gets crammed into one month. It becomes Booker T. Washington and Washington Carver. It becomes firsts — the first black this, the first black that. I understand why. We still have firsts in 2007, which is unbelievable. The day I don’t have to hear about another first will be a great day.” Call it persistent ambivalence. Talk about Black History Month with enough people, particularly anyone associated with an African-American organization or ethnic studies department or black history museum — the typical front lines of Black History Month — and a few tempered, recurring feelings emerge. Nobody wants Black History Month eliminated; though it was created with the hope one day it wouldn’t be needed, nobody feels that day has arrived. But nobody’s entirely comfortable with Black History Month, either.
(...)
“Yeah, you’ve got to laugh,” said Ethel Morgan Smith. Like it or not, she finds herself a lightning rod every February. In 1997 she wrote a wry essay for the Seattle Times about being black and in demand during Black History Month, and every year since, the piece circulated among friends and black intellectuals, (including Ms. Dickerson, who cites it in her Salon essay). Ms. Smith, an associate professor of English at West Virginia University and a Fulbright scholar, says after 10 years she’s received hundreds of positive letters, and maybe two negative.
“It hits a nerve, I guess,” Ms. Smith said. “We’re a crazy culture. The politics of Black History Month demand people call me now. But the reality is that folks don’t have vision. It never occurs to them to call me other times. They’re not interested in changing. I get messages on voice mail: ‘Ethel, you’re black, right? If so, call me back.’ Funny thing is, they never tell me what to do if I’m not.”

Dear readers,
What are your thoughts on Black History Month in the US and in Germany or in Europe in general or in other countries?
We appreciate anything you would like to share about Afro-Germans as well as African-Americans in Germany.

If you are a fellow blogger, please consider writing about the history and/or contributions of black people in your country of birth or residence. Thanks. The Atlantic Review will link to your posts.

We will not limit this project to February, but continue our coverage in March.

Bill has already kicked-off our German-American team project on Black History in Europe over at his place.  Do stop by Jewels in the Jungle and read the opening post "Black History Month in Europe?? An introduction to the Invisible Ones" as well as his extensive first follow-up. Patricia and Patrick are working on posts for Jewels in the Jungle as well.

I admit it is a bit weird to write in English about black history in Germany. Well, the Atlantic Review is always in English since it is the lingua franca these days. Patrick has written a detailed post in German, which will be published shortly and we will try to encourage some German language bloggers to contribute to Black History as well.

More to come in the next few weeks. Stay tuned. Subscribe to our newsletter or bookmark the Atlantic Review homepage or our history subcategory.

 
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Bookmark Black History Month in Germany at reddit.com

Trackbacks

No Trackbacks

Comments

Display comments as Linear | Threaded

David on :

Very good and valuable post, Joerg. Thanks! I wrote [url=http://dialoginternational.typepad.com/dialog_international/2006/03/american_genes.html]something[/url] recently about the "occupation babies" or "Ami-Bastards" - the offspring of American GI's who occupied Germany after the war. Turns out there were at least 3,000 children of African-American soldiers. It would be interesting to know more about their fate in postwar Germany. I am currently reading Wolfgang Koeppen's "Tauben im Grass" (1951)(Pigeons in the Grass) a novel about Munich just after the war which deals - among other things - with how the local populace viewed the black American GIs. Fascinating, and highly recommended.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Thanks, David. Very interesting. I will wait for a few more bloggers and then link to your post.

Ann on :

Hello. I found your blog via The ABW. Your site is very fascinating and highly educational. I have known of the Afro-Germans of Hitler's Nazi regime for some time, and I am still learning as much as I can about them. I am especially happy to hear of Germany's celebrating BHM. It is most appreciated. Here in America there is still a need for the recognition of BHM, as my people's history is still not taught in public schools, especially starting in elementary schools. There is much that Black America, and Africa, have contributed to the world. And that knowledge is slowly, but surely, coming out of the dark, and finally taking its place in the light to be given the credit it is long overdue. Peace.

kimberly pohlmann on :

black history month in germany is simply stupid, celebrate crime , drug abuse, poverty, urban decline, school system collapse, family values and morals collapse, the death of the family, highest aids population, largest group of unwed mothers living off the government, all worthy celebrations of black history month that will be omitted and forgotten about, because it is the truth that people cant deal with. a black neighborhood, mostly likely to be shot , mugged or killed. most likely to grow up and have a crack addict for a mother or a father in prison or your brother in a street gang. be truthful, stop with this ridiculousness ok?

David on :

Dear Kimberly, I bet you look cute in your white hood.

Dr IM Spence-Lewis on :

It is important that all nations reflect the: diversity, nationalism and heritage of the population. This must be throughout the year not just for one month. Germany is no exception. The turmoils following WWII made it difficult for German people and leadership to deal with matters arising from Africa and African descendants. The war killed or disorganized a large pool of germans who were capable of transmitting knowledge about relations with other countries and Germany. Order had to be restructured. During this period Germany was under the boot of the allies to conform and even disregard the indigenous heritage. As a nation ravaged by war the country was living by a black market(tobacco)economic system and bartering. There was no money until the allies issued currency. German military and civilians suffered after the war ended. One is not speaking of those charged with war crimes, although some may dispute this point. All rules of military and civil justice were denied Germans following the signing of the treaty between allies and axis powers to conclude WWII. The issues were basic needs: shelter, food and security from rape and other forms of intrusion. Thousands of Germans living in other European countries were requested (forced) by allied authorities to return to Germany. Many of these people had communities beyond German borders for hundreds of years. Germany has advanced since that period and is trying to develop more harmonious relations within the countries boundaries and the world. Thank you for the opportunity to comment. You are invited to visit url www.marcusgarveylibrary.org.uk welcome marcus garvey library

Joan on :

I found your blog from Josh's comment to a post on blackprof.com...Excellent work and I join with you in celebrating African-Germans.

jdid on :

interesting article. I havent had a chance to check the links yet but I noticed that it focused mainly on blacks in the entertainment/sports industry in Germany. My knowledge of Germany is rather limited but I'm just wondering what about blacks excelling in other arenas of life in Germany?

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Thanks for stopping by, jdid. There is still a lot to do. I have briefly mentioned Anton Wilhelm Amo, a philosophy professor in the 18th century, and Hans Massaquoi, who was born in Germany, considers Germany is home, but made a career in the US, incl. managing editor at Ebony magazine. More about Amo: [url]http://jewelsnthejungle.blogspot.com/2007/02/black-history-month-in-europe-2007-amos.html[/url] and about Massaquoi here: [url]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Massaquoi[/url] Out of the top of my head I can't think of any famous Afro-German politician, scientist or businessman. Perhaps our readers will contribute more info. Germany does not have a Barack Obama. The US (and Canada?) is still a model to emulate in many ways: [url]http://atlanticreview.org/archives/545-German-Paper-America-Remains-Model-to-Emulate.html[/url] Nkechi Madubuko is writing a dissertation about the careers of Afro-German academics: [url]http://www.nkechi.madubuko.de/?page_id=6[/url] I will ask her for more info. Another link with interesting info in German: [url]http://www.bpb.de/themen/X5FI94,0,0,Afrikanische_Diaspora_in_Deutschland.html[/url]

Zyme on :

Black people seem to have been around here for quite some time. In my town for example, there is even a street named to the location where their quarter was: It´s the Mohrengasse, including the Mohrenapotheke.

Michael Fisher on :

You must be living in Heidelberg

Zyme on :

No! It´s Regensburg ;P

Fuchur on :

Hans-Jürgen Massaquoi's autobiography "Neger, Neger, Schornsteinfeger" (a bestseller in Germany) was recently made into a TV movie (I know this because the DVD caught my eye a few days ago). The ZDF has lots of background info (in German): [url]http://www.zdf.de/ZDFde/inhalt/6/0,1872,3977606,00.html[/url] Another African German I'd like to mention is Asfa-Wossen Asserate, son of the last Ethiopean Kaiser. I very much enjoyed his great book "Manieren" (manners), which also is a huge bestseller in Germany (some have labelled it the new Knigge). But then of course, his situation as a prince is rather exceptional.

Bill on :

Good job Jörg, it was time that you cut the "Schwarze-Geschicte in Deutschland" zeppelin loose into the blogosphere. Nice to see that so many of your readers are seriously interested in this subject matter. Let's see if the German public or even better the German media picks up on this thread (i.e. Der Spiegel, Stern, Focus, Hamburger Abendblatt, FAZ, ARD/ZDF, etc.). I noticed that the Spiegel International article about black German filmmakers participating in this year's Berlinale International Film Festival didn't get much traction with blog authors who monitor and write about Spiegel International's English-language news stories (see their Technorati trackback "blogs discussing this story" feature). I also noticed that the article about Black filmmakers in Germany was not listed in Spiegel International's 2007 Berlinale Intl. Film Festival archive (see the present index page of Spiegel International Online, middle right-hand area of the page). Sloppy editing at the rag or an honest mistake? Nonetheless, the article was a welcome change to Spiegel's standard approach to the subject of blacks in Germany (see their related articles). http://www.spiegel.de/international/0,1518,464712,00.html

Please Come Flying on :

Hi Joerg. Thanks for letting me know about this post. I find it very interesting because I do think that Black History Month is problematic in that there *is* a danger of making this important history trivial and something like a novelty act. At the same time, I grew up in an all-white, very rural school district where we simply didn't read Ralph Ellison or Richard Wright, and didn't know anything beyond the very basics of Black History...we learned about the Civil War and Rosa Parks, but it all seemed very distant and irrelevant to our lives. In America, Black History Month at it's *best* is a way to engage, honor, and appreciate the huge contributions of black Americans that should not go unnoticed. I do hope that someday it will be unnecessary. Take care, Josephine

kjackso2 on :

I'm creating this webpage for a class I'm taking. It was real exciting to see your response to my blog. I look forward to learning more about Black History in Germany. Please check back to my site in the near future and give me your feedback.

Axel on :

Just two additions: - [url=http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anton_Wilhelm_Amo]German Wikipedia[/url] has additional information dealing with philosopher Anton Wilhelm Amo. In 1965, the University of Halle errected a statue of him. I'm not sure if this is correct or a typo because according to the [url=http://www.orientarch.uni-halle.de/hist/h04.htm] homepage of the Institut für Orientalische Archäologie und Kunst[/url] there was an official tribute to Amo in 1975. Since 1994, the Anton Wilhelm Amo prize is annually awarded to excellent researchers. - The German Historical Museum in Berlin offers some further information about Africans in Germany, expecially in Berlin: [url=http://www.dhm.de/ausstellungen/namibia/stadtspaziergang/index.htm]"Afrika in Berlin - ein Stadtspaziergang des Deutschen Historischen Museums"[/url]. Links for navigating are on the left side. The informative text is only available in German but there are also interesting pictures like a portrait of military musician Gustav Sabac el Cher in a Prussian military uniform with medals and a notorious Pickelhaube. A large list of recommended literature is also available.

Bill on :

Thanks Axel for drawing our attention to this important exhibition at the Deutschen Historischen Museums in Berlin. Man, this guy Gustav Sabac el Cher must have been a sensation! Serving in the Prussian Army of Kaiser Wilhelm? What a contradiction and irony that must have been. Note that he was not the first "Schwarze Preussen" as that honor goes to another African who worked for the Prussians in one the Gold Coast colonies. Do you know his name and what he did for Germany to receive that title?

Axel on :

Hmm, do you mean "Ludwig Besemann"? I googled around and found some other names of black soldiers who served in the regular Imperial Army in Germany. But it seems that better historical research has to be done, either the bibliographic descriptions are questionable or I wasn't careful enough... Because of the strict antispam policy I will only give one direct link: Some web pages mention the Cameroonian Vize-Wachtmeister Elo (Wilhelm) Sambo born on 1 April 1885 in Jaunde who served as the kettle drummer in the band of the Life Guard Hussar Regiment, was awarded the Iron Cross 1st and 2nd class and later served in the 4th Cavalry Regt of the Reichswehr. Buried at the Kölner Südfriedhof. Possible source: DH Hagger in "Hussars and Mounted Rifles- Uniforms of the Imperial German Army 1900-14" But according to the [url=http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=22359&start=15&sid=445cb4218682e2be0d4c443e60a43a33]"Axis History Forum"[/url] his name was "Josef Mambo", he was from German East Africa and some other details of his vita are different: "Mambo, Josef geb. 31.10.1885 in Tanga, Deutsch-Ostafrika. Von 1904 bis 1913 der Kesselpauker der Grenadierregiments zu Pferde in Bromberg, Kriegsteilnehmer 1915-1918, zweimal verwundet in Ostpreußen und Verdun. Eiserne Kreuz zweiter Klasse und das Verwundetenabzeichen." Or are these two different persons? Some pages also mention a "Gefreiter Josef Mambow" who was kettledrummer in the Horse Grenadiers (3rd Dragoons) and joined the army in 1909. At least one former East African askari also served in the post-war Freikorps (!) Lettow-Vorbeck as the General's personal driver. Seems that this is Heipold Jansen, born in Cameroon in 1893, who was an enlisted officer in the Prussian Army and fought throughout the First World War for the Germans. ("Jansen, Heipold geb. 10.02.1893 in Duala, Kamerun. Vizefeldwebel der preussischen Armee. Kriegsteilnehmer 1914-18. Dann in einem Freikorps, das unter anderem an der Niederwerfung des Spartakus-Aufstandes März 1919 in Berlin eingesetzt wurde.")

JW-Atlantic Review on :

@ Axel "Because of the strict antispam policy I will only give one direct link:" You can post as many links as you like. It's just that our software will put your comment on moderation, if you include more than one link. Sometimes even comments with a single link need to be approved first. Feel free to post many links, if they are good. We appreciate them.

Michael Fisher on :

The history of blacks in Germany does not begin in the 18th century, but in pre-historic times. Beyond that, during the hundreds of years during which Southern and Western Germany was part of the Roman Empire, many tens of thousands of African Roman legionaries were stationed in Germany. They did what men tend to do... leaving their genetic legacy imprinted upon the German people of those regions. Hyde Flippo's effort is to be appreciated, but it is riddled with inaccuracies. First off, the German women who dared to have children - the so-called "Rheinlandbastarde" with the French Senegalese soldiers who occupied the Rheinland (a region along the French German border encompassing the area around the curent German state of Saarland) after WW1, were not initially sterilized under the Nazi regime, but already a decade earlier under the rule of the German "liberal" and "socialist" German Social Democratic Party of Friedrich Ebert et al. Flippo's omission is inexcusable because there is plenty of literature on the subject. Next it would appear that post WW2 "black Germans" didn't come to the fore politically until Katharina Oguntoye published her important book in 1986. Now that is complete nonsense. Until the early 1970's and most post-war black Germans were of African-American/German heritage. They numbered in the tens of thousands and were mostly centered around Munich, Kaiserslautern, Karlsruhe, Stuttgart, Mannheim, Heidelberg, Frankfurt and Berlin. Actually Katharina's remarkable work was the result of her coming in contact with Black Germans of African-American heritage (Black G.I. fathers and German Mothers) who as a group had already been highly politicized by the black nationalist movement which was a decisive factor among the black draftee soldiers in the U.S. Army. These black American soldiers (young draftees mostly)who already (pre-Vietnam War) in the late fifties and early sixties already had been highly politicized by the anti-colonial movements in Africa, and called each other "members" had a decisive influence on many of their black German offspring. Quite a few of these radicalized African-American Black Germans became leaders in the late 1960's German student and socialist and even Maoist movements. Katharina Oguntoye actually was a fairly recent immigrant from communist East Germany, the GDR, and was born in Leipzig as the daughter of an Nigerian student and a German mother. Before she came in contact with these black nationalist African-American Black Germans she actually didn't think there was that much wrong with Germany, race wise. It took some doing to convince her otherwise, but eventually she understood. That may have had to do not only with her East German background, but with the fact that Black German girls and women had always been treated in a vastly different manner than Black German boys and men. Black German girls and women had been seen less as a threat and more as "exotic" sexual objects whereas the German black boys and men, frankly, were seen as potential spoilers of German womanhood. Thus the vast difference in treatment. Black German males as late as the 1980s, for example, were not allowed into many German nightclubs and discos while Black German females were generally welcomed. In this context it must be understood that the German society of the 60's and 70's had come to be ruled by those German kids who were actually raised during the 12 year Nazi reign. A Hitler Youth who had reached age 20 by the end of WW2, for example, was only 55 by 1975.

Bill on :

Wow, look at all this great stuff coming together on the history of blacks in Germany! Mike, could you please quote your source(s) on the following comment? The history of blacks in Germany does not begin in the 18th century, but in pre-historic times. Beyond that, during the hundreds of years during which Southern and Western Germany was part of the Roman Empire, many tens of thousands of African Roman legionaries were stationed in Germany. I've been able to find reports and documentation that states that the Visigoths of southern Europe (Spain, Italy) were in regular contact with north Africans (Berbers) and of course there was the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus (AD 145-211) who ruled Roman Britain from AD 203-211 and the black Roman legionnaires that protected Hadrian's Wall, but black Africans in Germany going back to pre-Historic times? That's a stretch. What do you have as a source, cave drawings? (Just kidding. Thanks for the input.)

Michael Fisher on :

By the way. before I forget. The Patron Saint of Southern Germany/Switzerland is St. Maurice or, in German St. Moritz. He was an African, born in Thebes, Egypt and a black Roman legion commander who commanded the Roman African Theban Legion in the third century A.D. A statue of him (black skin and African features and all) can even today be found on Magdeburg's catholic cathedral: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Saint_Maurice_Magdeburg.jpg

Michael Fisher on :

Bill, not to be facetious, but you could have googled this and gotten plenty of info. Also check Van Sertima, the African Presence in Early Europe. [url]http://books.google.com/books?id=p0jXzU1pT3YC&pg=PA190&lpg=PA190&dq=blacks+in+prehistoric+germany+europe&source=web&ots=O-no-XQZCq&sig=ukAMHQnMD3P56RE1RqJu9B6eM3Y[/url]

Zyme on :

All that multi-kulti harmony here - you guys are late by a generation! I feel like warped into the 1970s :)

Michael Fisher on :

That's cause a lot of African-American German Blacks who could got the hell out of Germany before the 70s were over. There are tons of 'em in he US.

Anonymous on :

Xavier Naidoo and Roberto Blanco and others are not multi kulti, but mainstream.

2020 on :

An observation: Where I live the population is friendly to 'foreigners' as we call everyone 'not from here'. The administrative bodies are not. Maybe Nordfriesland, the county where I live, is too close to Denmark :D and too far from Berlin, maybe it's because in the past centuries we needed every hand to protect the dikes against the North Sea. If you live here, you are with us, not with 'them'.

Bill on :

Actually the Nordfriesen and the Ostfriesen have some strong historical ties with black Africans dating back to the 17th-18th Century. Checkout the history of Emden for example and the Brandenburg African Company setup by the Elector of Brandenburg Friedrich Wilhelm (ca. 1683). You are right in that the people of Germany's northwest are fiercely independent but I wouldn't describe them as being friendly to foreigners. Since their economies today depend a great deal on tourism and the German military at Wilhelmshaven they are simply more tolerant of visitors and foreigners as long as they don't hang around too long and start trying to change things. That goes for the "foreigners" from the greater BRD (Federal Republic of Germany) too, especially any Germans hailing from the lands south of Osnabrück. I should know as I have spent quite a bit of time over there in Ostfriesland. They've always treated me with lots of respect and some wonderment and have shown a great interest in the history of my country (the United States of America) and its various people. We love swapping stories over a nice cup of Ostfriesische Tee and a piece of homemade cake (or two or three). Moin moin!

susanne on :

The book Invisible Woman: Growing Up Black in Germany is amazing. Ika Hügel Marshall has a very important and powerful story to tell about her experiences as a Black German woman. http://www.amazon.com/Invisible-Woman-Growing-Black-Germany/dp/0826414516 Worth a read, please check it out. http://www.coloredgirls.com/Reviews/review.html?article_id=19

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Thanks. I will write a follow up post tomorrow.

Michael Fisher on :

Thousands of years of Germanic culture? Like what? The Kravatte? A Turkish invention! Or like the Das Fenster (the window) a Roman invention for which the germans didn't even have their own word so that they had to adopt the Latin word, fenestra? Maybe like the Roman legal system which the Germans adopted wholesale? Or the African religion "Christianity" which the Germans adopted wholesale? Deutschland Erwache... Von wegen. Du hast sie nicht mehr alle, Alter.

ADMIN on :

I hardly ever delete a comment and I am very tolerant of all kinds of nonsense, but I felt it necessary to delete the hateful comment you have responded to.

Michael Fisher on :

While I understand and agree with your sentiment fully, I don't agree that the racist comment should have been deleted. First, there's the issue of free speech. More importantly, however, the racist post demonstrates that the problems of racial bigotry which Black Germans face are still very real. Unfortunately this bigotry can not be as easily deleted in real life as it can on this blog.

ADMIN on :

Okay, I will repost the comment. I will do so for the sake of transparency rather than for free speech, which should not include hate speech. I don't want to give racists an audience. If that guy comes back and makes another racist comment, I will delete it. Trolling is not tolerated. Repeated comments by the same person should not give the impression that racism is even more common than it actually is. In every public discourse, extremists are more vocal and get more media attention than those boring average guys. His comments is here: [quote="herr schmidt"]blacks simply have no place in germany...there cannot be such a thing as ablack german...they simply live there and speak the language...they are in no way germanic and in no way do they represent the thousands of years of german culture that came before them...just as the millions of filthy turks that need to be thrown out, so do the negroes..what will it take for germany to awaken?[/quote]

che2001 on :

Her is a late article to the issue, written be an african refugee in Germany: http://che2001.blogger.de/stories/738416/

Yoosef Van Brausenhoffer on :

Hallo I have learned so much from this blog. I am a Black American musician who performed in Germany and Austria in the 1990s I did see a large inflex of Africans living in Germany I did not understand why the Africans were living in Germany in such huge numbers? Frankfurt train station looked like a cluttered version of Harlem with coffee creamed colored mulatto extras on every turn . I also saw a street of 20 young white heroine addicts using needles outside a phone booth . I was shocked !!!!!!!!!! I began thinking about the Africans again and their presence ...... Germany was not a major colony in Africa from what I had remembered like France ,Portugal or England There was no obligation to these Africans like England ( Chickens Come Home To Roust)theory . The theory of colonization ,rape and vicious occupation that England France and Portugal had performed on African countries didnt seem to apply here. I got a gig in Mexico and spoke with a West German couple who seemed very very disturbed about the large in flex of these African people in Germany. They told me they were coming from Africa to live off the welfare system of Germany.They said when the wall came down from East Germany is when the chaos started . Unemployment and crime rose and the Africans came with package. The couple told me if ever I were to return to Germany , say I am an Black American performing here. I will not be seen as African scurge living off the system I still question why so many Africans are visible in Germany but thids post helps out alot I still ask you this question. Doesnt there seem alot of minorities present in Germany more now than ever before . Why is the large presence of Africans seem comparable to the recent flight Mexicans to the U.S.A ? They also seemed to be treated the same.They are viewed as theatening scurge invading communites taking jobs or living off the system. Do you see a major change ?

Add Comment

E-Mail addresses will not be displayed and will only be used for E-Mail notifications.

To prevent automated Bots from commentspamming, please enter the string you see in the image below in the appropriate input box. Your comment will only be submitted if the strings match. Please ensure that your browser supports and accepts cookies, or your comment cannot be verified correctly.
CAPTCHA

Form options