Colorblind Love or Racial Responsibility?

The Adoption of Black German Children to Postwar America

by Silke Hackenesch

Children born to white German women and African American soldiers during the occupation, represent the first organized transnational adoptions to the U.S. primarily on the basis of race. In my larger research project (Habilitationsprojekt), I focus on the U.S. discourses on those Black German children who were adopted by (mostly African) American families between the mid-1940s and the end of the 1950s. I am interested in the contentious debates their adoption provoked among social welfare workers, non-professional adoption activists and civil rights activists. One aim of my project is to get a better understanding of what prompted African American couples to adopt a Black child from abroad, and to understand the nuanced, sometimes ambivalent responses to these adoptions from civil rights groups. I argue that the civil rights movement and its attack on racial segregation, discourses on the hegemonic American family, on American citizenship as well as a Cold War rhetoric all intersected in the social practice that became international adoption. I also look at lobbying for the adoption of Black German children with regard to the integrationist discourse of a colorblind society as well as the domestic adoption landscape in the United States.

Within the scope of this network, I intend to zoom in on African American individuals who lived in Germany after the end of the Second World War and concerned themselves with the situation of Black German children, as well as white Germans who became active in civil rights. More specifically, I look at a group of Black American women, wives of military service members, in Heidelberg, the efforts of boxer and actor Al Hoosman to organize aid and civil rights activism in Munich, as well as analyze the activism of a white German woman (mother of a Black German child) who founded a local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Germany.