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Black Germany


  • 18 b/w illus.
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 (ISBN-13: 9781107440722)

This groundbreaking history traces the development of Germany's black community, from its origins in colonial Africa to its decimation by the Nazis during World War II. Robbie Aitken and Eve Rosenhaft follow the careers of Africans arriving from the colonies, examining why and where they settled, their working lives and their political activities, and giving unprecedented attention to gender, sexuality and the challenges of 'mixed marriage'. Addressing the networks through which individuals constituted community, Aitken and Rosenhaft explore the ways in which these relationships spread beyond ties of kinship and birthplace to constitute communities as 'black'. The study also follows a number of its protagonists to France and back to Africa, providing new insights into the roots of Francophone black consciousness and postcolonial memory. Including an in-depth account of the impact of Nazism and its aftermath, this book offers a fresh critical perspective on narratives of 'race' in German history.

• Provides a detailed insight into the lives of black Germans based on a large body of previously unexplored sources • Offers a new critical perspective on 'race' as social process and lived experience in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Europe • Includes the first systematic account of the situation of black people under national socialism and in its aftermath


Introduction; 1. The first generation: from presence to community; 2. Should I stay and can I go? Status and mobility in the institutional net; 3. Settling down: marriage and family; 4. Surviving in Germany: work, welfare and community; 5. Problem men and exemplary women? Gender, class and 'race'; 6. Practising diaspora - politics 1918–33; 7. Under the shadow of national socialism; 8. Refuge France?; Epilogue.


'This is a very impressive book that provides fascinating information about the everyday lives of Africans in Germany and sheds new light on a hitherto unknown episode of twentieth-century history. It also makes a more general argument about race, community and Diaspora, based on painstaking archival research.' Andreas Eckert, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

'With painstaking and imaginative research, Robbie Aitken and Eve Rosenhaft have reconstructed the lives of individual Africans across multiple colonial regimes, from the German Empire to the French League of Nations mandate, and multiple German regimes, from the Kaiserreich to the Third Reich. Black Germany makes an important and persuasive argument about the emergence of a black German community and identity from the intersection of specific African and German histories. It shows that becoming black - that is, self-consciously part of an international community defined by 'race' - intersects with more particular and local historical entanglements. This is an important work of transnational history.' Andrew Zimmerman, George Washington University

'This is a thoroughly researched book. In their efforts to trace the biographies of their subjects, the authors consulted an impressive number of archives and provide an enormous amount of detail. Their judgment is measured and careful. It is true that the Cameroonians in Germany were numerically a small group, but their history illustrates crucial aspects of the history of black people in Germany and helps to open up a different perspective on German history. Their connections with wider issues of blackness in the diaspora also offer a fascinating transnational axis of analysis.' Raffael Scheck, German History Journal

'… a marvelously written account of Africans in pre-WWII Germany that spotlights the potential benefits of co-authorship and years of painstaking research … the book nuances our understanding of the importance of race and colonialism in twentieth-century Germany. Scholars and students interested in these topics will greatly benefit from reading it.' Michael Goebel, H-Soz-u-Kult

'… a richly detailed history of German nation-building, colonialism, and black diasporic migration that deserves close attention … Black Germany should and hopefully will be picked up by readers interested in exploring new histories of nationalism, colonialism, and racism. What Aitken and Rosenhaft have exposed to us is not a forgotten history but a history of forgetting. It is a history of erasing black bodies and experiences from white German memory, so much so that we continually express surprise when we encounter black people in Germany's history or present day. Yet Black Germany reminds us that we must always interrogate our understandings of the past.' Kira Thurman, H-Net

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