African Americans and Germany

The GHI supports a variety of events, research projects and publications related to the historical relationship between African Americans and Germany.

Past Events 

An exhibition curated by Maria Höhn (Vassar College) and Martin Klimke (GHI Washington) on The Civil Rights Struggle, African American GIs, and Germany is currently shown across Germany and the U.S. Please click on the link for a list of current exhibitions.

Research Project & Digital Archive

In collaboration with Vassar College (Poughkeepsie, NY) and the Heidelberg Center for American Studies (University of Heidelberg), the GHI also participates in an effort to create a digital archive and online research portal on The Civil Rights Struggle, African American GIs, and Germany.

The research project explores the connection between the U.S. military presence abroad and the advancement of civil rights in the U.S. It investigates the role that African-American GIs played in carrying the civil rights movement to Germany, which was host to the largest contingent of U.S. troops deployed outside the U.S.

Between 1945 and the end of the Cold War, some 15-20 million American soldiers, families and civilian employees lived in Germany. Between 2-3 million of those Americans were African American. By giving voice to their experience and to that of the people who interacted with them, the project will expand the story of the African-American civil rights movement beyond the boundaries of the U.S.

The digital archive has three main goals: First, it will gather and preserve materials on an important, but little known chapter of American and African-American history as well as transatlantic relations after the Second World War. Second, it will make these materials available world wide and free of charge to scholars and teachers in the humanities. Third, it will foster the growth of a community of scholars, teachers, and students who are engaged in teaching and learning about the African-American civil rights movement and its reverberations outside the U.S.

In 2009, the project received the NAACP Julius E. Williams Distinguished Community Service Award.

It is directed by Maria Höhn (Vassar) and Martin Klimke (GHI).

For further information, please visit or contact us via e-mail

Online Publications

  • Maria Höhn, The Black Panther Solidarity Committees and the Voice of the Lumpen, in: German Studies Review, XXXI, 1, February 2008, 133-154.
  • "When Jim Crow Came to the German Heimat" in: GIs and Fräuleins: The German-American Encounter in 1950s West Germany (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2002), 85-108.
  • Martin Klimke, The African American Civil Rights Struggle and Germany 1945–1989, in: Bulletin 43 of the German Historical Institute (Washington DC, 2008).
  • Martin Klimke, "Black Panther, die RAF und die Rolle der Black Panther-Solidaritätskomitees," In Die RAF und der linke Terrorismus edited by Wolfgang Kraushaar, 562-582. Hamburg: Hamburger Edition, 2006.
  • more publications

Print Publications 

  • Maria Höhn and Martin Klimke, A Breath of Freedom: The Civil Rights Struggle, African American GIs, and Germany (forthcoming Fall 2010 with Palgrave Macmillan; German edition with Verlag Berlin-Brandenburg)
  • Mischa Honeck, Martin Klimke, and Anne Kuhlmann-Smirnov, eds., Blacks and Germans, German Blacks: Germany and the Black Diaspora, 1450-1914 (forthcoming)
  • Thomas W. Maulucci, Jr., and Detlef Junker, (eds.), G.I.s in Germany: The American Military Presence, 1945-2000 (New YorkCambridge University Press, forthcoming)
  • Larry A. Greene and Anke Ortlepp (eds.), German and African American Crossovers: Two Centuries of Contact. Jackson: University of Mississippi Press (under review).

Past Events in 2008/2009

African American Civil Rights and Germany in the 20th Century
October 01 - 04, 2009
Jointly organized by the German Historical Institute, Washington DC and Vassar College (Poughkeepsie, NY)
Conveners: Maria Höhn (Vassar College) and Martin Klimke (GHI) 

Black Diaspora and Germany Across the Centuries
March 19 - 21, 2009
Workshop at the GHI 

Civil Rights and America's Role in World War II
January 13, 2009
Lecture at the German Historical Institute Washington DC
In cooperation with Vassar College and the Humanities Council of Washington DC
Speaker: Harvard Sitkoff (University of New Hampshire) 

African American Civil Rights and Germany
November 19, 2008
Exhibition opening at the GHI
In cooperation with the Humanities Council of Washington DC 

Martin Luther King Jr. and Germany in the 1960s
November 19, 2008
Panel discussion at the GHI 

African Americans and Germans: Historical Encounters
Spring Lecture Series 2008