“[For black soldiers], but especially those out of the South, Germany was a breath of freedom. [They could] go where they wanted, eat where they wanted, and date whom they wanted, just like other people.”
Colin Powell about his tour of duty in West Germany in 1958, from My American Journey (1995)
"Ein Hauch von Freiheit" (Breath of Freedom)
December 16, 10:05pm CET on Arte
"Breath of Freedom: Black Soldiers and the Battle for Civil Rights" (narrated by Cuba Gooding, Jr.)
Premiers February 17, 8pm ET/PT on Smithsonian Channel
"Freed's enduring photos of march part of exhibit"
„Heldin des anderen Amerikas“
für Angela Davis, 1970–1973.
Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, the prestigious civil rights organization NAACP (the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) decided to present its Julius E. Williams Distinguished Community Service Award for 2009 to Maria Höhn (Vassar College) and Martin Klimke (German Historical Institute, Washington, DC / Heidelberg Center for American Studies, University of Heidelberg) for their research project and digital archive on “The Civil Rights Struggle, African-American GIs, and Germany” (www.aacvr-germany.org).
The award is named after the first national director of the NAACP Department of Armed Services and Veterans Affairs. Mr. Williams joined the civil rights organization in 1966 and organized the Veterans Affairs Department in 1969. He served in World War II, the Korean Conflict, and Vietnam. His awards include the Legion of Merit Medal, the Soldier's Medal, and the Purple Heart.
The award recognizes an organization that has influenced broad service initiatives to develop veterans and community service partnerships. It was given at the Centennial Convention of the NAACP scheduled for July 11–16, 2009, in New York City. The award presentation took place during a private reception preceding the NAACP's Annual Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Awards Banquet on July 14. Speakers at the event included James T. Conway, Commandant of the Marine Corps and member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as David N. Dinkins, the first African-American mayor of New York City.
For the NAACP 2009 Dinner Agenda, please see here: PDF.
For press coverage, please see:
For further press material and reports, please visit: www.aacvr-germany.org/press.
NAACP Award Reception and 35th Annual Armed Services & Veterans Affairs Awards Dinner
NAACP Julius E. Williams Distinguished Community Service Award Nominee 2009
The Civil Rights Struggle, African-American GIs, and Germany
A collaborative research project of the German Historical Institute (GHI), Washington, DC, the Heidelberg Center for American Studies (HCA), University of Heidelberg, and Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY.
Initiated by Maria Höhn and Martin Klimke, this research project and digital archive explores the connection between the establishment of American military bases abroad and the advancement of civil rights in the U.S. It investigates the role that African-American GIs played in carrying the demands of the civil rights movement abroad beginning with World War II. Höhn and Klimke's initial focus has been Germany, which has been home to the largest contingent of American troops deployed outside the United States for the past 60 years.
Since 1945 almost 20 million American soldiers, along with their families and civilian employees, have served tours of duty in Germany, and about 3 million of those Americans have been African American. By giving voice to their experience and to that of the people who interacted with them over civil rights demands and racial discrimination on both sides of the Atlantic, Höhn and Klimke are preserving and expanding the history of the African-American civil rights movement beyond the boundaries of the U.S.
Their research project, which includes an oral history collection and a digital archive, has three main goals:
Maria Höhn, an established scholar of the American military presence in Germany whose works are well known in North America and Europe, teaches German history at Vassar College. Her seminal book, GIs and Fräuleins: The German-American Encounter in 1950s West Germany, published in 2002 by the University of North Carolina Press, was the first ever to address the experience of black soldiers in postwar Germany.
Martin Klimke is a research fellow at the German Historical Institute, Washington, DC, and at the Heidelberg Center for American Studies (HCA) at the University of Heidelberg in Germany. A widely published historian on protest movements, his latest book, The Other Alliance: Student Protest in West Germany and the United States in the Global Sixties, will be published by Princeton University Press in 2009.
Höhn and Klimke are currently writing a history of the experience of African-American soldiers, activists, and intellectuals in Germany in the 20th century entitled From DuBois to Obama: The Civil Rights Struggle, African-American GIs, and Germany.
Their photo exhibition “The Civil Rights Struggle, African-American GIs, and Germany” is currently on display in both Germany and the U.S.
> Exhibition Schedule
NAACP Centennial Convention
Bold Dreams, Bold Victories
President Barack Obama addresses the 2009 NAACP Convention
Chairman Julian Bond addresses the 2009 NAACP Convention
President & CEO Benjamin Jealous addresses the 2009 NAACP Convention