Germany and the Black Diaspora

Points of Contact, 1250-1914

Edited by Mischa Honeck, Martin Klimke and Anne Kuhlmann-Smirnov
(New York: Berghahn Books, Volume 15 of Studies in German History, July 2013)

The rich history of encounters prior to World War I between people from German-speaking parts of Europe and people of African descent has gone largely unnoticed in the historical literature—not least because Germany became a nation and engaged in colonization much later than other European nations.

This volume presents intersections of Black and German history over eight centuries while mapping continuities and ruptures in Germans’ perceptions of Blacks. Juxtaposing these intersections demonstrates that negative German perceptions of Blackness proceeded from nineteenth-century racial theories, and that earlier constructions of “race” were far more differentiated.

The contributors present a wide range of Black–German encounters, from representations of Black saints in religious medieval art to Black Hessians fighting in the American Revolutionary War, from Cameroonian children being educated in Germany to African American agriculturalists in Germany’s protectorate, Togoland. Each chapter probes individual and collective responses to these intercultural points of contact.



“Meticulously researched in previously ignored archives and obscure publications, the essays included in this volume range from black figures in medieval art and baroque drama to German translations of 18thand 19th century African and African American writers and from the story of the black Americans who returned with the Hessians to Kassel to the fascinating account of the venture to start cotton plantations in Togo, undertaken by the German Colonial Committee with the help of Booker T. Washington. ‘Germany and the Black Diaspora’ reveals the many interactions of Africans and African Americans with the German-speaking world, thus offering fresh and suggestive interracial perspectives on German cultural history in broader contexts.”
– Werner Sollors, Harvard University

“The organization of the book is exemplary. The introduction presents a very important theoretical construct for this and future investigations of the phenomenon of race in the German-speaking world…the chapters assembled in this anthology are excellent…I have no doubt this volume will quickly become a vital part of the growing body of research on Afro-German interactions.”
– Leroy Hopkins, University of Pennsylvania

“This is an important collection that takes a large step forward in advancing knowledge about people of the African diaspora in Germany.”
– Sara Lennox, University of Massachusetts Amherst



“In this exciting volume, Honeck, Klimke, and Kuhlmann put forward a unique resource for the burgeoning study of the African diaspora in Germany.  Comprising essays from scholars working in a variety of fields, the collection fills significant gaps in the current scholarship […] In detailing a phenomenon long ignored within mainstream German culture and history, this collection will be of use to a variety of readers, including those working in African and African American studies, art history, German studies, and history […] Highly recommended.”
– Choice

“[…] the detailed research and accessible style of the volume make it exceptionally helpful in undergraduate and graduate seminars.”
– German Studies Review

“The essays collected here offer compelling evidence for what Hoerder calls the need to ‘[reintroduce] Africans into European  history after their symbolic annihilation by white nationalist historians’. For the most part, this splendidly edited volume admirably succeeds in helping forgotten and neglected human beings in ‘making themselves known’.”
– Postcolonial Studies

“This is a wide-ranging and fascinating if somewhat exploratory collection of articles. Half of the twelve chapters deal with the interactions of Africans and Germans across the last millennium; the personal interactions between Americans and Germans that are analyzed involve African-Americans who traveled to Germany or its African colonies.”
– Yearbook of German American Studies



Mischa Honeck is a research fellow at the German Historical Institute in Washington, DC. His first book, We Are the Revolutionists: German-Speaking Immigrants and American Abolitionists after 1848 (University of Georgia Press, 2011), was a Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2011.

Martin Klimke is Associate Professor of History at New York University Abu Dhabi. He is the author of The Other Alliance: Student Protest in West Germany and the United States in the Global Sixties (Princeton University Press, 2010) and coauthor of A Breath of Freedom: The Civil Rights Struggle, African-American GIs, and Germany (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010). He is also the coeditor of the Protest, Culture and Society series (Berghahn Books) and several edited volumes on transatlantic and transnational history.

Anne Kuhlmann-Smirnov is a research fellow in Russian history at the Cultural Foundation of the German Federal States in Berlin. In 2010, she received the Sponsorship Award of the Society for Historical Migration Research for her PhD dissertation on black people in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Germany.


Table of Contents

Foreword: New Perspectives on the Interactions between Black Africans and Europeans since the Early Modern Period
Dirk Hoerder

Mischa Honeck, Martin Klimke and Ann Kuhlmann-Smirnov

I. Servants of God in the Servitude of Men
1) Black Diaspora in Europe in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries
Kate Lowe

2) The Calenberg Altarpiece: Black African Christians in Renaissance Germany
Peter Kaplan

3) Mapping Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Black Germany:
Migration Routes and Social Space
Anne Kuhlmann-Smirnov

4) Real and Imagined Africans in Court divertissements
Rashid-S. Pegah

II. Race and Enlightenment in an Enlightment World

5) “On the Brain of the Negro”: Race, Comparative Anatomy, and Friedrich Tiedemann’s 
Jeanette Eileen Jones

6) Global Proletarians, Uncle Toms and Native Savages: The Antinomies of Black Identity in Nineteenth-Century Germany
Bradley Naranch

7) The German Reception of Black Writing and Black Authorship the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
Heike Paul

III. Black Migrations in the Eras of Revolution and Colonialism

8) “Kasseler Neger – Kasseler Mohren”? Silenced Narratives of the African Diaspora in Germany
Maria Diedrich

9) Liberating Sojourns? African American Travelers in Mid-Nineteenth Century Germany
Mischa Honeck

10) Uplift Ideology vs. Imperialist Agenda: Tuskegee’s Cotton Growing Scheme in German 
Kendahl Radcliffe

11) Education and Migration: Cameroonian School Children and Apprentices in the German
 Metropole, 1884-1914
Robert Aitken

Peter Martin