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What Murder Looks Like From A Distance

From the Black M.A.R.S. Project by James Young

What Murder Looks Like From A Distance

I had just woken up. The sun was shining through the cactus-coated windows just above my makeshift bed, a fold-out couch. It was another beautiful late summer day in Berlin. After picking up my cell phone, I started scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed to catch a glimpse of what was going on back in the United States. Perhaps it’s become a compulsion by now or at least, a meager attempt to maintain some connection to the country I’ve called home for the past 22 years. The article title my finger finally descended on escapes me now, but its content was all too familiar: another unarmed Black body murdered by the police. His name was Michael Brown.

Since I started learning about the history of what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called “The Other America,” I’ve never stopped feeling rage or some emotionally caustic concoction of anger, hopelessness, and desperate ambition to do something…anything, that might lessen centuries of pain inscribed in our collective memory. August 9th, 2014 was no different.

But let’s return to the beginning first. Why Germany? Last March, the Thomas J. Watson Foundation selected me as a 2014-15 Watson Fellow. The opportunity affords a fortunate cohort of students (approximately 40 each year) from the United States a stipend for one year to fund independent travel and pursuit of a creative research project. I chose to focus my project on art, activism, and Black masculinity in the African Diaspora. Without doubt, its scope is broad. However, it’s allowed me to connect with a wide range of Black artists and performers who are similarly trying to figure out a number of questions that interest me: How can art be used as a tool of resistance? What kind of art should we create to deal with the present spiritual, social, political, and economic turmoil we face? And how can we construct representations of ourselves that challenge and defy marginalizing narratives? So after researching the history of Black folks in Germany and considering the parallels between the treatment of African people there and the United States, I marked the country as the first stop on my year long journey.

The more articles I read about Michael Brown that late August morning, the deeper I felt moved to write something…anything that might lessen centuries of pain inscribed in our collective memory. Poetry has always been my outlet since the age of 12 when I first scribbled the contents of my heart onto a pad of notebook paper in sixth grade. August 9th 2014 was no different.

The Ballad of Michael Brown

When scorching hot suns
bake Black flesh of our sons
on asphalt pavements

When jack-boot thugs
called local police
play toy soldiers with
peaceful protestors

When white governors
tuck us in for curfew and
Black presidents say
time will heal our wounds

we are angry
we are sick and tired of being sick and tired
we are impatient…
dying to survive.

Yet our wearied footsteps
march in ancestral shoes
still seeking paths
leading to justice.

Since that day, I’ve spent time in England, France, and currently, write this piece from Brazil. In the circles I’ve found myself in—from the vaguely conscious to Pan-African folks who champion all Black everything—people know what’s going on in the United States. I think it’s important to repeat that. People around the world feel our pain. There have been solidarity protests in major cities of each European country I visited—Berlin, London, and Paris. And the relationship between Black folks and the police never fails to spring up as a topic of conversation. It’s also common to hear romanticized aspirations to visit the USA because they’ve seen so much of the sunny side. It leads one to consider what visions of our country are broadcasted. For as bright as things may be for some, the lives of far too many are still shaded by injustice. But there are only so many conversations about home one can have with folks from another country, of another culture and history before recognizing that the sense of urgency I feel watching what’s happened these past months is not, and perhaps cannot, be shared to the same extent.

When Thanksgiving arrived back in the United States, I found myself protesting on the streets of Saint-Denis in Northern Paris. Our cause was a different one. Outrage has been sparked across the African Diaspora by white South African artist Brett Bailey’s ‘artistic’ production, Exhibit B. If you don’t know, I suggest checking out any number of articles about his controversial artistic commentary on the 19th and 20th century histories of placing African people in human zoos…by placing African people in human zoos in the 21st. The protestors numbered upwards of 200. The assault-rifle armed police presence was significant as well. But I was excited to take part in resistance efforts despite my limited background in French after reading about the success of protests in London. So as we chanted on the streets outside Théâtre Gérard-Phillipe, it was humbling to stand in solidarity with sisters and brothers of the diaspora. Yet I also felt a growing sense of homesickness at the same time. For at that moment, folks in Ferguson, Missouri and at least 90 other cities across the United States were rising up, speaking out, organizing, and protesting against police brutality.

Perhaps the real question is not what murder looks like from a distance, but how to respond effectively to it. I had the opportunity to connect with Professor Donald Muldrow Griffith in Berlin. A retired professional dancer and teacher from the USA, he has made his home in Germany for the past 35 years. Professor Griffith heads an arts and cultural organization called Fountainead Tanz Theatre that hosts an annual festival called Black International Cinema as well as a monthly public access program. I asked him about the experience of being so long removed from the United States, but still being engaged in the work he does which promotes the sharing of African American history in Germany. His words resonate with me still: “Those who have escaped from the cauldron have a responsibility to those still trapped inside.”

Some days words never feel like enough. In the words of the London-based rapper, poet, and author, Akala, “Behind my painted smile and all the revolutionary noise/ is nothing but a lost little boy.” I’m still on my own journey of self-transformation—part of a greater effort to channel my abilities and privileges into something that makes a difference. Outside of financial stability, I’ve believe that the greatest blessing being a Watson Fellow have provided me are the luxuries of time and distance that so few possess. These past months have challenged me to see myself and my country through another set of eyes. And once you become aware of how the world operates, that knowledge can never be taken away from you. It is liberating and troubling at the same time. Some days words are all I have. I recently penned a poem called “Colorblinded Contradictions” to highlight the conflict between rhetoric and reality when it comes to Black folks. My conclusion:

As long as tear-eyed mothers
ride along with Black babies
in hearses
I’ll continue to cry out
for justice in all of my verses.

My friends in London inspired me to consider social transformation beyond the rhetoric during my first Kwanzaa celebration. Singer, spoken word artist and performer Oneness Sankara hosted a gathering of folks at her home on the day celebrating Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics). That evening, we came together to discuss what the day meant to each of us. It was then I realized that I was surrounded in that space by folks who have dedicated their lives to trying to create alternatives to our present situation. I was blessed to be hosted during my stay by KMT the Freedom Teacher, who transformed his home, May Project Gardens, into a model of what he refers to as “sustainable city living,” using permaculture practices to grow his own food. KMT has recently dropped his first EP, “Fear of a Green Planet,” integrating hip-hop, sustainable living, and eco-activism to encourage self-determinism.

I thought the collective the protests across the country represented the beginning of our generation’s Civil Rights Movement. As months of organizing fades from mainstream media spotlight, my hope has taken a new form. In my mind, we are called to action now more than ever. As the African proverb states, “Until lions have historians, the history of the hunt will forever glorify the hunter.” We must tell our stories. We must act with compassion, conviction, and courage. In the words of KMT the Freedom Teacher, we must begin “planting little seeds everyday” of internal transformation that will manifest outwards. So when the time to harvest comes, we’ll be “watching the world just change.”




Hello and feel warmly welcomed to my blog

Who am I? I am a Black German in his early 30’s living in Berlin. To be more exact: I am a light skinned queer but until now mostly straight performing feminist cis-man – and I am neurodiverse. Being neurodiverse means, that I am blessed with in my case even two mental dispositions that are unluckily marked as illnesses by society. I am a highly sensitive Asperger autist having an ADHD on the meantime. While both dispositions are not that strongly distinct, their presence in society creates an interesting and challenging intersectional reality I don’t want to exclude from future blog posts. Concerning my exterior: I don’t challenge the Eurocentric beauty ideal by having the privileges of being thin, tall and by trying to work out my body, but I do it by being Black and wearing my natural curly hair, which since winter 2011 has become quite a big kinky (I call it ) crown. By having a face, that rather matches Eurocentric beauty I often got asked in the past whether I have been in the tanner for very long since I have some tan, but people didn’t immediately associate my parents with East Africa, from which one of my two fathers is. But since I have my hair all questions concerning my tan seem to be answered.

Why do I describe myself this meticulously? Because I think every single feature makes a difference in the experiences one makes in (German) society.

I was born and raised in Switzerland in a privileged, complicated but very loving, all white upper middle-class German family; which is probably the main reason, why an actually more or less average (or slightly over the average) intelligent Black man with an ADHD and Aspergers autism is not dead, in jail or homeless but can reflect about racism and about being Black and neurodiverse in Germany.

I also speak as someone coming from a specific group of Black Germans, sharing the circumstance, that many of our fathers are African academics or US GIs, who came to Germany, got together with white German women and often went back to Africa or the US afterwards for various reasons (I can only assume, that visas ran out, they didn’t find a job for racist reasons, couldn’t take the amount of racism in general, some probably didn’t plan to stay anyway and I’m sure some were simply scared from becoming a father). So many of us grew up without any Black parents in all white environments. In later blog posts I will get more detailed about this experience. Though Blacks like me are a significant percentage inside the tiny Black community in Germany I though don’t believe we’re the majority. But I can only guess, since I don’t even know how many of us, Black people in Germany, there are. This is because there are no statistics. Because of Germany’s colonial history Blacks were kept as silent and as invisible as possible for centuries, though some of us have been writing and creating art for centuries and blogging for decades.

As our existence was and partly still is denied so to is the language for our reality. We don’t even have a working word that is used like the English term ‘race’ in German, because the translation of ‘race’ is the same word for ‘breed’ in German. This is one of the reasons why many Black Germans including me reject the term mixed race or race in general: Nobody wants to be associated with a certain ‘breed’. I simply define myself as a Black person and in matters of shade I describe myself as (still) light skinned while recognizing the privileges connected with it. I also mostly speak and exchange with Black people from the US or the UK, so if I try to take a distance from Germany and reflect about things in the German context I will be mostly comparing the situations with the US or the UK, but I’m looking forward to get more especially non western perspectives!

This is roughly who I AM and how I’m positioned in the hierarchies of race, class , gender, disability and body. And what I WANT in this blog is to articulate my Black German reality, share my neurodiverse perspective while being another Black voice breaking the silence inside and outside of Germany. I want to continue the work of my predecessors analyzing racist realities, showing opportunities of empowerment and maybe even generating tiny pieces of knowledge

You’re most invited to join me on this journey!

Everyday Blackness

From traffic lights to elevator doors and door knobs what are the moments of everyday blackness in our lives? The question was sparked in a debate with a couple of friends on how Black culture and inventions in the future should no longer be seen as the exception but as part of the norm of modern societies when suddenly it occurred to me, ‘hold on, what are we talking about! Black culture is already part of the day-to-day norm of modern societies. The knowledge has simply been forgotten, whitewashed, or erased over time.’ In the spirit of uncovering moments of Everyday Blackness here is a list of common everyday objects from the clothes dryer, to the biscuite cutter and dust pan that you use on a daily basis and might never have known were invented by individuals from the global Black community.

– Asoka Esuruoso

Traffic-Light Traffic LightBorough_tube_station_lifts_01 Elevator Doors1271271096NDK17-1 Door Knob

Black Inventors and their Inventions List

air conditioning unit         Frederick M. Jones     July 12, 1949

auto cut-off switch           Granville T. Woods     January 1, 1839

automatic gear shift         Richard Spikes         February 28, 1932

rotating baby buggy                   W.H. Richardson        June 18, 1899

folding bicycle frame                 L.R. Johnson           October 10, 1899

biscuit cutter               A.P. Ashbourne         November 30, 1875

blood plasma bag             Charles Drew           Approx. 1945

chamber commode               T. Elkins               January 3, 1897

clothes dryer                 G. T. Sampson           June 6, 1862

curtain rod                   S. R. Scratton         November 30, 1889

curtain rod support           William S. Grant       August 4, 1896

door knob                     O. Dorsey               December 10, 1878

door stop                     O. Dorsey               December 10, 1878

dust pan                     Lawrence P. Ray        August 3, 1897

egg beater                   Willie Johnson         February 5, 1884

electric lampbulb             Lewis Latimer           March 21, 1882

automatic elevator door     Alexander Miles         October 11, 1867

eye protector                P. Johnson             November 2, 1880

fire escape ladder           J. W. Winters           May 7, 1878

fire extinguisher             T. Marshall             October 26, 1872

folding bed                   L. C. Bailey           July 18, 1899

folding chair                 Brody & Surgwar         June 11, 1889

fountain pen                 W. B. Purvis           January 7, 1890

furniture caster             O. A. Fisher           1878

gas mask                     Garrett Morgan         October 13, 1914

golf tee                     T. Grant               December 12, 1899

guitar                       Robert F. Flemming, Jr. March 3, 1886

deconstructable hair brush      Lydia O. Newman   November 15, 1800’s

horse shoe                   J. Ricks               March 30, 1885

ice cream scooper             A. L. Cralle           February 2, 1897

improv. sugar making         Norbet Rillieux         December 10, 1846

insect-destroyer gun         A. C. Richard           February 28, 1899

ironing board                 Sarah Boone             December 30, 1887

key chain                     F. J. Loudin           January 9, 1894

lawn mower                   L. A. Burr             May 19, 1889

lawn sprinkler               J. W. Smith             May 4, 1897

lemon squeezer               J. Thomas White         December 8, 1893

lock                         W. A. Martin           July 23, 18–

lubricating cup               Ellijah McCoy           November 15, 1895

lunch pail                   James Robinson         1887

mail box                     Paul L. Downing         October 27, 1891

mop                          Thomas W. Stewart       June 11, 1893

peanut butter                 George Washington Carver   1896

pencil sharpener             J. L. Love             November 23, 1897

phone transmitter             Granville T. Woods     December 2, 1884

record player arm             Joseph Hunger Dickenson January 8, 1819

refrigerator                 J. Standard             June 14, 1891

riding saddles               W. D. Davis             October 6, 1895

rolling pin                   John W. Reed           1864

shampoo headrest             C. O. Bailiff           October 11, 1898

spark plug                   Edmond Berger           February 2, 1839

stethoscope                   Imhotep                Ancient Egypt

stove                         T. A. Carrington       July 25, 1876

straightening comb           Madam C. J. Walker     Approx 1905

street sweeper               Charles B. Brooks       March 17, 1890

thermostat control          Frederick M. Jones     February 23, 1960

traffic light                 Garrett Morgan         November 20, 1923

tricycle                     M. A. Cherry           May 6, 1886

typewriter                   Burridge & Marshman     April 7, 1885

For more please visit:




Audre Lorde & the Modern Afro-German Movement

Lorde once wrote of Afro-German women:

“I am excited by these women, by their blossoming sense of identity as they say, “Let us be ourselves now as we define us. We are not a figment of your imagination or an exotic answer to your desires. We are not some button on the pocket of your longings.” I see these women as a growing force for international change, in concert with other Afro-European, Afro-Asians, Afro-Americans.”[i]

Farbe Bekennen, Audre Lorde

Born in 1934 in Harlem as the daughter of Caribbean immigrants, the beautiful paradox about Audre Lorde is that through the course of her life it was impossible to label or categorize her, and yet at every turn and opportunity she stood up and would define herself. She used her many identities to produce an activist perspective and politics that would inspire a wide array of women from across the African Diaspora and global feminist movements. By declaring multiple identities she was not only acknowledging but also celebrating differences, asking others to build bridges, to be conscious of our own individual power and to use it in building those bridges.

As a diasporic intellectual and activist she addressed questions of Black subjectivity, in particular Black female subjectivity. Lorde often confronted the racism that was embedded within contemporary feminist thought, and maintained that a great deal of the scholarship written by contemporary white feminists served to augment the oppression of black women. In her essay, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House,” Lorde argued that by denying difference in the category of women, white feminists merely passed on old systems of oppression and through this denial continued to silence minority voices, preventing any real, lasting change.

It is her poetry, however, that she is best known for and it is here that her emphasis on a multi-dimensional subject and multi-layered identity become most self-evident. In collections such as Coal and The Black Unicorn Lorde does not simply work with the voice of the Black female subject, she also gives voice to the Black lesbian and explores the constructed boundaries between heterosexual and homosexual love and desire, along with highlighting the Black female subjects diasporic nature, and the links Black women share across time and continents.

Lorde was first invited in 1984 to Berlin as a visiting professor to teach a seminar on Black American woman poets and a poetry workshop in English at the Free University of Berlin. One of her goals in accepting the invitation and traveling for three months to Germany was to meet and connect with Black German women. “Who are they, these German women of the Diaspora?” Lorde would later write. “Beyond the details of our particular oppressions – although certainly not outside the reference of those details – where do our paths intersect as women of color?” [ii]

Her work and presence inspired many within the Afro German community. Influentially, with the help of students and independent Black and white German women she met along the way, Lorde used her own notoriety, performances, seminars, and lectures as platforms for Afro German connection and solidarity.


Notes and Sources:

[i] Lorde, Audre. “Foreword to the English Language Edition.” Foreword. Showing Our Colors: Afro-German Women Speak out. Ed. May Ayim, Katharina Oguntoye, and Dagmar Schultz. Amherst: University of Massachusetts, 1992. Vii. Print.

[ii] Lorde, Audre. Foreword. Ed. May Ayim, Katharina Oguntoye, and Dagmar Schultz.Showing Our Colors: Afro-German Women Speak out. Amherst: University of Massachusetts, 1992. Xii. Print.

The Black Experience in Nazi Germany

At the height of the Jazz Age in the 1920s it is estimated that roughly 20,000 – 25,000 Black individuals of African, Afro German, or Afro-Diasporic descent were living in Germany.[i] However, with the rise of National Socialism what little racial acceptance Germany had had would disintegrate.

On January 30, 1933 Hitler was appointed Reich Chancellor of Germany, and celebrated with a torch-lit rally where thousands of SA, SS and Stahlhelm[1] formations marched through the Brandenburg Gates saluting their newly appointed leader.

The central focus of Hitler’s racial obsessions would be Germany’s Jews, but they were by no means alone. All other “non-Aryan” people were equally in his sights, and would be subjected to laws and regulations concerned with racial hygiene, including the Nuremberg Laws of 1935. Germany’s estimated twenty-thousand-strong Black German community was in particular a thorn in the Nazi’s eye, and bizarrely linked in Hitler’s mind to the Jews. Years earlier in Mein Kampf he had already written that, “Jews were responsible for bringing Negroes into the Rhineland, with the ultimate idea of bastardizing the white race which they hate and thus lowering its cultural and political level so that the Jew might dominate.”[ii] Now they, along with millions of others, would be subjected to his rule.

As thousands of drunken SA, SS and Stahlhelm men marched beneath the torch-lit figure of their leader on that January 30th, life, which for many Afro-Germans had previously been lived in isolation, became life lived in isolation and fear. The Afro-German Erika Ngambi ul Kuo, an eye-witness growing up in Nazi Germany,[2] recounted about looking for a training position in the late 1930s, “I heard at every turn: ‘What, you want to work for us! We only hire “Aryans”’ … One good friend who I had been close to dropped me like a hot potato. Later, in Berlin people spat on us in the street and taunted us with ‘bastard,’ and ‘mulatto.’ It was awful.”[iii]

In the 1940s the SS took over independent preexisting Black establishments and performance groups to present a primitive image of Africa and to subvert them into vehicles of Nazi political propaganda confirming their own racial stereotypes.[3] During the course of the war many performers from such shows would simply disappear, or were deported to concentration camps.[iv] But it was not just Black individuals in the theatrical and live performance world who were used to promote Nazi agendas. Not long after the Nazi seizure of power Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels began exploiting the German feature film industry, the most popular entertainment medium of the time, to spread the Nazi gospel of Aryan supremacy.

As a young extra used by the Nazis, Werner Egiomue, describes in an interview, “they had an agent. He knew all the blacks in Berlin. He had all of their addresses. The Cultural Department contacted him when they were casting a film. They’d say we need six blacks, or four Chinese, three Japanese. All were available in Berlin. Then we’d play the natives in films like ‘Congo Express’, ‘Quax in Africa’ or ‘Auntie Wanda from Uganda.’”[v]

Through such films Black extras and actors were able to network and connect with one another. The film studios also provided some level of protection from the full brutality of the Nazi regime. Others were not as fortunate.

As narrated by James Earl Jones in the documentary Black Survivors of the Holocaust,

“Between 1939 and 1945 an estimated 200 thousand black troops recruited from France’s African colonies were serving in the European theater of war. The Africans were especially loathed by the SS because of the history of the Rhineland occupation. In many POW camps the Nazis segregated the Black prisoners of war from the rest of the camp’s population. Often, in what was a breach of their rights under the Geneva Convention, Black prisoners were denied food and given dangerous jobs…Black civilians in Germany’s concentration camps received much harsher treatment at the hands of their SS guards. No one knows how many Black soldiers and civilians perished in [Germany’s POW and Concentration] camps.”[vi]

The French African soldiers were not alone, they would be joined by thousands of African American and colonial Black British soldiers. The Nazis however were notoriously inconsistent in how they dealt with the Black soldiers they captured in combat. There is evidence[4] of colonial and African American soldiers and Air Force personnel being summarily killed and mutilated across the European theater of war in complete disregard and abuse of their rights as POWs under the Geneva Conventions.[vii]

There are equally many accounts of Black civilian victims sent to work as slave labor in concentration camps and being deported directly to death camps. These stories include the eye witness accounts of Gert Schramm, a Black German survivor who was sent as a young boy to the Buchenwald concentration camp, and also that of his African American father Jack Brankson, who was deported to Auschwitz in 1941 and was never heard from again.

As Paul Gilroy writes in Against Race: Imagining Political Culture Beyond the Color Line,

“Baker, Fanon, and Senghor are probably the best known of many blacks who opposed fascism in battle and in the resistance. There are other, little-known and largely unremembered people who joined the opposition to Hitler, passed their lives in camps and detention centers of various kinds, or who survived quietly and retreated back into the strange ambiguities of their existence as black Europeans. Among those who should be brought to mind here are Hilarius “Lari” Gilges, who was beaten to death by Nazis in Dusseldorf in 1933 and is one of the few black victims of Hitler to have a public memorial of any kind. The Belgian activist Johnny Voste was a member of the resistance movement. He was arrested in 1942 and not only survived Dachau but helped some of his comrades to do so as well. Another was Johnny William, a Frenchman originally from the Ivory Coast who was deported to the Neuengamme camp complex near Hamburg…”[viii]

In an interview Johnny William later described his deportation to the Neuengamme concentration camp, one of the harshest camps in Northern Germany.

“The journey [there] was apocalyptic, horrific. 120 of us packed in a single cattle car. Imagine all of those people locked up together for four or five days and nights, with no air to breathe and hardly any food. We had to relieve ourselves in there too. By the time we arrived some people were dead … in the Neuengamme camp there were 5 or 6 of us [Black prisoners]. As soon as we arrived, the SS separated us from the others. We didn’t know what to expect so we were scared. We thought we would be killed there and then. Then to our great surprise when the SS arrived they inspected us, touched us, and said ‘Ah, blacks…good.’ They had a good laugh at us because they considered us to be sub-human, like animals, chimpanzees…”[ix]

During the Nazi period many Afro Germans also escaped, fleeing the nation, while others stayed aided by friends, relatives, and their own sheer inventiveness. Good examples of survival would include the Afro-German Hans J. Massaquoi, and the Michael family.[5]

Massaquoi not only survived years of Nazi persecution, and the American and British bombings of Hamburg, but would later immigrate to the USA, becoming a journalist, author, and the managing editor of the Black publication Ebony magazine in the US. In 1999 he published his autobiography titled Destined to Witness: Growing up Black in Nazi Germany.[6]

The father of the Michael family, Theophilus Wonja Michael, was born in Cameroon and migrated to Berlin in 1894 where he started a family with his white German wife. Four children were born from this union, James, Juliana, Christiana and Theodor. After the death of their mother in 1926, and then the passing of their father in 1934, the children were left to fend for themselves and escape the Nazi regime of terror. Theodor found work in the Berlin film industry and after the war would go on to become one of Germany’s oldest and most distinguished character actors. While Theodor remained in Berlin his surviving siblings gained employment in a variety of traveling circuses, as these provided some protection from coming into close contact and conflict with the Nazi government.Through the nature of this work, and the need for anonymity, the siblings eventually became separated and only decades later would again be reunited in the 1960s in Cologne. And even after all of that time one brother, James, recalled one of the worst moments of his life:

“We were in Paris and had just pulled down the circus tent. My passport had just run out, so I went to the German consulate to have it renewed. I went in and said: ‘Good morning.’ It was early in the morning when I entered. They told me, ‘Here we don’t say, “Good morning”, we say, “Heil Hitler!”’ Had I again done something wrong? So, good, as I didn’t have any other choice, I also said, ‘Heil Hitler.’ ‘What do you want?’ the clerk demanded. ‘To renew my passport,’ I answered. ‘Your passport!’ he said. ‘What are you, are you German?’ ‘Yes, here is my passport,’ I answered. He examined it. ‘Born in Berlin on the October 2, 1916 and so on and so forth.’ Then he took my passport and went away with it. A quarter of an hour or more went by before he returned – but without my passport. I said, ‘I thought you were going to give my passport back to me.’ He said, ‘No, we are going to keep your passport. You are no longer German. Black Germans do not exist.’[x]

Recommended Reading:

9780415932950Hitler’s Black Victims by Clarence Lusane: Drawing on interviews with the black survivors of Nazi concentration camps and archival research in North America, Europe, and Africa, this book documents and analyzes the meaning of Nazisms racial policies towards people of African descent, specifically those born in Germany, England, France, the United States, and Africa, and the impact of that legacy on contemporary race relations in Germany, and more generally, in Europe. The book also specifically addresses the concerns of those surviving Afro-Germans who were victims of Nazism, but have not generally been included in or benefited from the compensation agreements that have been developed in recent years.

Notes and Sources:

[1] “Steel Helmet, League of Frontline Soldiers”, one of the many paramilitary organizations that arose after the German defeat of World War I.

[2] Her story was published by May Ayim and Katharina Oguntoye in Showing Our Colors: Afro-German Women Speak Out.

[3] A good example of this would be the Hillerkus African Show founded by Julietta Tipner and Adolf Hillerkus

[4] The evidence was first drawn up in a collection of material from postwar investigators into war crimes by Robert W. Kesting, an archivist at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C.

[5] For more on the subject of Black experience in Nazi Germany please read: Schwarz und Deutsch, by Theodor Wonja Michael; Destined to Witness: Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany, by Hans J. Massaquoi; Other Germans: Black Germans and the Politics of Race, Gender, and Memory in the Third Reich, by Tina Campt; The Black Military Experience in Germany, by Monroe H. Little Jr.; Against Race: Imagining Political Culture Beyond the Color Line, by Paul Gilroy; “African Germans in the Third Reich” by Susann Samples, published in The African-German Experience, edited by Aisha Carol Blackshire-Belay; Hitler’s Black Victims: The Historical Experience of Afro-Germans, European Blacks, Africans, and African Americans in the Nazi Era, by Charles Lusane; Black Europe and the African Diaspora, edited by Darlene Clark Hine, Trica Danielle Keaton, Stephen Small; and Rewriting the footnotes : Berlin and the African diaspora, by Paulette Reed-Anderson.

[6] Hans Massaquoi sadly passed away on January 19, 2013.

[i] Sources: Chiponda Chimbelu, “The fate of blacks in Nazi Germany“. Deutsche Welle. 10.01.2010. Retrieved 9 November 2011. Anne Frank Guide, Black people in Nazi Germany.

Afrodeutsche – Black Germans, <>

[ii] Hitler, Adolf, Mein Kampf (translated by James Murphy, February, 1939) Vol. I, Chapter XI (A Project Gutenberg of Australia)

[iii] Ayim, May, Katharina Oguntoye, and Dagmar Schultz. Showing Our Colors: Afro-German Women Speak out. Trans. Anne V. Adams. Amherst: University of Massachusetts, 1992. 56-76. Print.

[iv] Black Survivors of the Holocaust. Film. Director, David Okuefuna ; producer, Moise Shewa ; an Afro Wisdom Films production for Channel 4 and International Family Entertainment. Narrator, James Earl Jones. Publisher, SpiritWorld Entertaiment.


[v] Black Survivors of the Holocaust. Film. Director, David Okuefuna ; producer, Moise Shewa ; an Afro Wisdom Films production for Channel 4 and International Family Entertainment. Narrator, James Earl Jones. Publisher, SpiritWorld Entertaiment.


[vi] Black Survivors of the Holocaust. Film. Director, David Okuefuna ; producer, Moise Shewa ; an Afro Wisdom Films production for Channel 4 and International Family Entertainment. Narrator, James Earl Jones. Publisher, SpiritWorld Entertaiment.


[vii] Gilroy, Paul, Imagining Political Culture Beyond the Color Line. Belknap Press, October 2, 2001. 303. Print.

[viii] Gilroy, Paul, Imagining Political Culture Beyond the Color Line. Belknap Press, October 2, 2001. 302. Print.


[ix] Black Survivors of the Holocaust. Film. Director, David Okuefuna ; producer, Moise Shewa ; an Afro Wisdom Films production for Channel 4 and International Family Entertainment. Narrator, James Earl Jones. Publisher, SpiritWorld Entertaiment.


[x] Sources: Africa in Europe: Studies in Transnational Practice in the Long Twentieth Century (Liverpool University Press – Migrations and Identities Edited by Eve Rosenhaft and Robbie Aitken Pp 244, Reed Anderson, Berlin and the African Diaspora, p. 80. Black Survivors of the Holocaust. Film. Director, David Okuefuna ; producer, Moise Shewa ; an Afro Wisdom Films production for Channel 4 and International Family Entertainment. Narrator, James Earl Jones. Publisher, SpiritWorld Entertaiment.