GHI Spring Lecture Series 2011

Crossing the Color Line: A Global History of the African American Freedom Struggle

Organized by Martin Klimke (GHI)

African American civil rights activists early on conceived of their struggle for racial equality as part of a larger struggle against colonialism in Africa, Asia, and South America. This lecture series brings together scholars from both sides of the Atlantic to reflect on this booming field of African America history and to shed light on how both African Americans' quest for equality and the responses to it transcended the borders of the United States. Focusing on new actors and geographic regions, the series will offer a more comprehensive perspective on the civil rights movement.

All lectures begin at 6:30 pm (refreshments will be served from 6:00 to 6:30 pm) and will be held at the German Historical Institute, 1607 New Hampshire Avenue NW (Directions). Please RSVP (acceptances only) by Tel. 202.387.3355, Fax 202.387.6437 or E-mail.

  • Bourgeois Radicals: The NAACP and the Struggle for Colonial Liberation, 1941-1960
    March 24, 2011
    Speaker: Carol Anderson (Emory University) - more about this lecture...

  • Global Perspectives on the Black Freedom Struggle
    April 21, 2011
    Speaker: Manfred Berg (University of Heidelberg) - more about this lecture...

  • Black Expatriates and Civil Rights Activism in 1950/60s Ghana
    May 26, 2011
    Speaker: Kevin Gaines (University of Michigan) - more about this lecture...

  • The Night Malcolm X spoke at the Oxford Union, England: Race Protest in the Subversive Special Relationship
    June 9, 2011
    Speaker: Stephen Tuck (University of Oxford) - more about this lecture...

In cooperation with the Humanities Council of Washington, DC's Live to Read program, the Black German Cultural Society, and the Goethe-Institut, Washington, DC

Click on image to enlarge or print (pdf).
Spring Lecture Series Invite
  • Bourgeois Radicals: The NAACP and the Struggle for Colonial Liberation, 1941-1960
    Carol Anderson
    Carol Anderson

    March 24, 2011, 6:00 - 8:00 pm.
    Speaker: Carol Anderson (Emory University)

    In 1993, shortly after his release from Robben Island, future President of South Africa Nelson Mandela addressed the NAACP annual convention. Mandela told the Association members, who "had contributed everything from $20 bills to $1,000 checks in a fund-raiser for the ANC", that "‘We have come as a component part of the historic coalition of organizations, to which the NAACP and the ANC belong that has fought for the emancipation of black people everywhere.'"

    Indeed, many of the strategies that brought about the collapse of apartheid - the isolation of South Africa in the UN, boycotts, divestment, and media attention focused on the brutality of white supremacy - were designed by a transnational team of activists in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

    One of the first sustained skirmishes occurred when South Africa, swimming against the tide of colonial and racial history, attempted in 1946 to annex the adjacent international mandate of South West Africa (current-day Namibia). Pretoria was confident of UN approval for such an unprecedented move. Yet, into the breach -and into the United Nations - stepped an unlikely duo, the Reverend Michael Scott and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, to stop the absorption of 350,000 Africans into a white supremacist state.

    This seemingly odd couple, a maverick, communist-leaning Anglican minister and a staid, staunchly anti-communist bureaucratic organization, launched a skillful assault in the UN by linking the destructiveness of colonialism with white supremacist domestic rule. Within the span of five hard-fought years, the NAACP and Scott, wielding one human rights charter after the next, had carved out the political space in the UN for non-governmental organizations to debunk the myth of the white man's burden and to challenge the legitimacy of apartheid.

    In her talk, Professor Anderson will explore the intersection of domestic and international history, recapturing the vision and the actions of the black political center in the anti-colonial and global freedom movements.


    Carol Anderson is an Associate Professor of African American Studies. She received A.B. degrees in Political Science and History and an M.A. in Political Science/International Relations from Miami University. She earned her Ph.D. in History from Ohio State University.

    Her research focuses on international and domestic politics and their effect on human rights and racial equality. Her first book, Eyes off the Prize: The United Nations and the African American Struggle for Hu-man Rights, 1944-1955 (Cambridge University Press, 2003) won both the Myrna Bernath Book Award from the Society for Historians.

    Professor Anderson has also won numerous teaching awards during her career including the William T. Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence, the Maxine Christopher Shutz Distinguished Teaching Award, the Most Inspiring Professor Award from the Athletic Department, the Provost's Teaching Award for Outstanding Junior Faculty, and the Gold Chalk Award for Outstanding Graduate Teaching.

    Professor Anderson's research has similarly been recognized. She has garnered substantial fellowship support from the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Humanities Center, the Charles Warren Center for the Study of American History at Harvard University, the Gilder Lehman Institute of American History, and the Ford Foundation.

  • Global Perspectives on the Black Freedom Struggle

    April 21, 2011, 6:00 - 8:00 pm.
    Speaker: Manfred Berg (University of Heidelberg)

    In recent years, civil rights historians have challenged the traditional narrative that separated the history of black Americans from the rest of world and depicted the so-called "race question" in the United States as a purely domestic problem.

    In his lecture Manfred Berg will take a critical look at the new transnational and global history of the black freedom struggle probing its achievements and limits. Moreover, Berg will consider the impact of global affairs on the African American civil rights movement.


    Manfred Berg is the Curt Engelhorn Professor of American History at the University of Heidelberg and a specialist in the history of the African American civil rights movement. His book The Ticket to Freedom: The NAACP and the Struggle for Black Political Integration was published in 2005 by the University Press of Florida.

    In 2006 Manfred Berg received the David Thelen Award of the Organization of American Historians for his essay "Civil Rights and Liberal Anticommunism: The NAACP during the Early Cold War," which was subsequently published in the Journal of American History. Professor Berg has published thirteen monographs and edited volumes, including his new book Popular Justice: A History of Lynching in America (Chicago: Ivan Dee, 2011).

    Before he was appointed professor of American History at Heidelberg, he taught at the Free University of Berlin and was a research fellow (1992-1997) at the German Historical Institute, Washington, D.C., among other positions. In 2009 he served as the Lewis P. Jones Professor of History at Wofford College, Spartanburg, South Carolina. 

  • Black Expatriates and Civil Rights Activism in 1950/60s Ghana
    Kevin Gaines
    Kevin Gaines

    May 26, 2011, 6:00 - 8:00 pm.
    Speaker: Kevin Gaines (University of Michigan)

    In 1957 Ghana became one of the first sub-Saharan African nations to gain independence from colonial rule. Over the next decade, hundreds of African Americans--including Martin Luther King Jr., George Padmore, Malcolm X, Maya Angelou, Richard Wright, Pauli Murray, and Muhammed Ali--visited or settled in Ghana. Kevin K. Gaines explains what attracted these expatriates to Ghana and how their new community was shaped by the convergence of the Cold War, the rise of the U.S. civil rights movement, and the decolonization of Africa.

    Posing a direct challenge to U.S. hegemony, Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana's president, promoted a vision of African liberation, continental unity, and West Indian federation. Although the number of African American expatriates in Ghana was small, in espousing a transnational American citizenship defined by solidarities with African peoples, these activists waged along with their allies in the United States a fundamental, if largely forgotten, struggle over the meaning and content of the formal American citizenship conferred on African Americans by civil rights reform legislation.


    Kevin Gaines is the Robert Hayden Collegiate Professor of History and Afroamerican and African Studies, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, at the University of Michigan. He received his B.A. from Harvard University and his Ph.D. from Brown University in the Department of American Civilization. He is author of Uplifting the Race: Black Leadership, Politics, and Culture During the Twentieth Century (University of North Carolina Press, 1996), which was awarded the John Hope Franklin Prize of the American Studies Association. His most recent book, American Africans in Ghana: Black Expatriates and the Civil Rights Era (UNC Press, 2006) was a Choice Outstanding Academic Title. He is a past president of the American Studies Association (2009-10).

  • The Night Malcolm X spoke at the Oxford Union, England

    The Night Malcolm X spoke at the Oxford Union, England: Race Protest in the Subversive Special Relationship

    June 9, 2011, 6:00 - 8:00 pm.
    Speaker: Stephen Tuck (University of Oxford)

    Late in 1964, Malcolm X spoke at one of the most conservative of British institutions - the Oxford University debating union. Carried live on the BBC, and publicized around the world, some rated it as Malcolm X's greatest speech.

    But why Malcolm X came to Oxford has remained something of a mystery. On the face of it, the dusty old university town might seem a rather strange destination for an international renowned radical, following his lengthy, and well-known, trips to Africa and the Middle East.

    Yet Malcolm X's choice of Oxford was savvy. The university was in the midst of its own racial turmoil in 1964. More generally, African Americans and newly immigrated black Britons forged connections, which shaped the course and outcome of the struggles for racial justice in both countries - in powerful, and often unexpected ways.


    Stephen Tuck is a lecturer in American history at the University of Oxford. In 2011-12, he will also be a fellow of the Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University. He has written two prize-winning books, most recently a popular history of the long civil rights movement, entitled, We Ain't What We Ought to Be: The Black Freedom Struggle from Emancipation to Obama (Belknap Press, 2011). He is currently writing "The Lynching of Kelso Cochrane: A Story of Riots, Race and Immigration in Modern Britain."