UMASS Recognizes Growing Interdisciplinary Study of Black Germans in Academia

Doctoral student Kevina King (far left) on a panel this weekend with Jemele Watkins (far right) at the third Black German Heritage & Research Association International Conference held at Amherst College.

Doctoral student Kevina King (far left) on a panel this weekend with Jemele Watkins (far right) at the third Black German Heritage & Research Association International Conference held at Amherst College.

AMHERST, Mass.—In an effort to recognize a relatively young academic discipline that many in the academy have never heard of before, nearly a hundred students and scholars gathered at Amherst College over the weekend to discuss their research and ideas for how to grow Black German Studies.

This marks the third year that the Black German Heritage & Research Association sponsored the international conference, which highlighted a variety of interdisciplinary topics ranging from Black Germans during the Third Reich to their ongoing presence in German theater.

Like African American, Women and Queer studies, Black German Studies has an admitted social justice focus, says Dr. Sara Lennox, a professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and an early founder of the Black German Studies movement in the U.S. “We’ve made the field legitimate. You can now do this work and get tenure,” says Lennox, who was chiefly responsible for jumpstarting the Black German Studies concentration at UMASS Amherst. “It’s kind of a burgeoning field and movement. The other thing that’s really cool is there is a pretty strong connection between activism and scholarship and a really strong connection with the experimental … Black Germans talking about their stories.”

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GERMANY AND THE BLACK DIASPORA

imagePoints of Contact, 1250-1914

“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 18th- and 19th-century African and African American writers… 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. [They] reveal 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, Millersville University

“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

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Black Europe

The first comprehensive documentation of the sounds and images of black people in Europe pre-1927

imageRecordings on phonograph cylinders, gramophone discs and films, with both still and moving images, feature people of African descent in Europe from the earliest years of the recording industry and continued after the First World War. The contribution of these pioneering personalities on the modern mass media has not been noticed – recognition is overdue. Music, spoken word and dance, from all styles, categories, languages and natal lands provide a lost but rich resource. Many artefacts may be lost forever, but this project traces the surviving evidence.

Collected in two 12 x 12 inch coffee table book with more than 500 full-colour pages, here is a multitude of documents, artefacts and curiosities, from passport applications, personal memorabilia and letters, to sheet music, newspaper ads and fabulous poster art, complemented by contemporary postcards and images of wax cylinders and disc records. In more than 100 chapters the life and times of these pioneering entertainers, musicians and linguists comes to life, from early film and sound examples to best-selling 78 rpm records, from ‘human zoos’ and minstrel shows to ethnological documentation and portraits of the (sometimes dubious) movers and shakers in European showbusiness of the time.

The team of internationally recognized experts, compilers and authors responsible for this project includes biographer Horst J.P. Bergmeier of the Netherlands, historian Jeffrey Green from the United Kingdom, discographer Dr. Rainer E. Lotz from Germany, researcher Howard Rye from the United Kingdom and sound engineer Christian Zwarg from Germany.

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“Evolutionary: Duality” by Kojo Baffoe

Kojo Baffoe

The poetry of Kojo Baffoe – Editor of Destiny Man mag, writer, entrepreneur, father, dreamer based in South Africa

Born in Munich, Germany to a Ghanaian father and German mother, Kojo spent his formative years on the streets of Maseru, Lesotho, eventually completing his International Baccalaureate at Machabeng High School in 1990. After high school, he spent a year in Germany as a Rotary Exchange Student, taking the opportunity to get in touch with his Germanic roots. For more information on Kojo Baffoe CLICK HERE. To hear his poem, click on the link below.

Duality