American Desegregation in Post-Shoah Germany

by Cedric Essi

As part of the network’s larger engagement with Black freedom struggles in transatlantic perspective, my individual project turns to the significance of interracial intimacies in the 1960s. The project is threefold and expands previous work by scholars such as Maria Höhn (GIs and Fräuleins). First, my research revolves around intimacies between African American soldiers and white German civilians. I investigate how the notion of a seemingly more progressive racial climate in post-Shoah Germany was mobilized to further the cause of the American civil rights struggle—which is often seen to culminate in the US Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia (1967) as an official end to segregation by also striking down anti-miscegenation laws nationwide. Second, I complicate this account by zooming in on governmental efforts—on both sides of the Atlantic—that sought to obstruct and dissolve marital as well as familial formations between African American men and white German women. Third, this project seeks to critically reconstruct German responses to desegregation in the United States. Beginning with interventions such as Hannah Arendt’s “Reflections on Little Rock,” my interest lies in carving out how the taboo on interracial intimacy was variously addressed and repressed with regard to Black freedom struggles and how German debates over black-white intimacies at home and abroad were, in often unacknowledged ways, deeply informed by ongoing antisemitism.