A Breath of Freedom: The Civil Rights Struggle, African American GIs, and Germany

A Breath of Freedom: The Civil Rights Struggle, African American GIs, and Germany

Palgrave Macmillan
September 2010
282 pages
6 x 9 1/4 inches, Includes: 50 pgs illus
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-230-10473-0, ISBN10: 0-230-10473-8
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-230-10472-3, ISBN10: 0-230-10472-X

Maria Höhn, Professor of History
Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York

Martin Klimke, Research Fellow
German Historical Institute, Washington, D.C.

Based on an award-winning international research project and photo exhibition, this poignant and beautifully illustrated book examines the experiences of African American GIs in Germany and the unique insights they provide into the civil rights struggle at home and abroad. Thanks in large part to its military occupation of Germany after World War II, America’s unresolved civil rights agenda was exposed to worldwide scrutiny as never before. At the same time, its ambitious efforts to democratize German society after the defeat of Nazism meant that West Germany was exposed to American ideas of freedom and democracy to a much larger degree than many other countries. As African American GIs became increasingly politicized, they took on a particular significance for the Civil Rights Movement in light of Germany’s central role in the Cold War. While the effects of the Civil Rights Movement reverberated across the globe, Germany represents a special case that illuminates a remarkable period in American and world history.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Closing Ranks: World War I and the Rise of Hitler
  • Fighting on Two Fronts: World War II and Civil Rights
  • “We Will Never Go Back to the Old Way Again”: African American GIs and the Occupation of Germany
  • Setting the Stage for Brown: Desegregating the Army in Germany
  • Bringing Civil Rights to East and West: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Cold War Berlin
  • Revolutionary Alliances: The Rise of Black Power
  • Heroes of the Other America: East German Solidarity with the African American Freedom Struggle
  • A Call for Justice: The Racial Crisis in the Military and the GI Movement
  • Epilogue
Tags: , , , , ,