Book – Endorsements

Praise for


“With this book, Höhn and Klimke make an enormous contribution to African-American History, German History, Military History – and how they intersect. It is beautifully written, persuasively argued, and expertly researched.

Gerald Horne, University of Houston,
author of Black and Brown: African-Americans and the Mexican Revolution, 1910-1920

“Nearly three million African American soldiers served in West Germany in the years from the end of World War II to the end of the Cold War. In this vital and riveting book, Höhn and Klimke trace how black GIs’ encounters abroad offered both a space to experience the freedom denied them in the United States and a chance to build an internationalized civil rights movement in concert with German activists. A story of transnational alliances grounded in complex local realities, A Breath of Freedom is a stellar work of international history.“

Adriane Lentz-Smith, Duke University,
author of Freedom Struggles: African Americans and World War I

“This book profoundly enhances our understanding not only of the history of the civil rights movement but also of the history of the Cold War. With a clear and undogmatic style, Höhn and Klimke convey the fruits of an impressive amount of research in German and American archives. They provide a compelling narrative that is essential reading for anyone interested in the ways in which transnational connections reshape national histories.“

Akira Iriye, Harvard University, former president of the American Historical Association
and author of The Globalization of America

“As a young GI in Germany in 1945 and 1946, I discovered that the early American occupation was a microcosm of the racial and civil rights struggle that would emerge later in my life. My own experience thus anticipates and validates the main thesis of Höhn and Klimke’s A Breath of Freedom.“

David Brion Davis, Yale University,
author of Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World

“A fascinating exploration of an important but previously ignored topic. Through their rich history of black GIs in Germany, Höhn and Klimke have demonstrated that the American story of race was indeed a transnational one.“

Stephen Tuck, Oxford University,
author of We Ain’t What We Ought to Be: The Black Freedom Struggle from Emancipation to Obama

“Höhn and Klimke’s carefully researched and lucid book stands for a paradigm shift in our reading of the civil rights movement and deserves to become a classic in the field: not only does it invite the movement’s relocation in a transnational context; it also succeeds in illustrating the innovative potential of this global perspective with its in-depth case study of the specific intersectionality of post-World War II Germany and African America.“

Maria Diedrich, University of Münster, founding president of the Collegium for African American Research (CAAR),
author of Love Across Color Lines: Ottilie Assing and Frederick Douglass

“Despite the countless books that have been written about the Cold War, the story of black GIs and their civil rights struggle outside of the United States remained untold – until now. In A Breath of Freedom, Höhn and Klimke make a signature addition across a number of scholarly fields including Black Diaspora, Military, Civil Rights, and Comparative Studies, to name a few. There simply is no comparable work on this subject. With its solid research, incisive analysis, and broad historical reach, this book should become a fundamental text for anyone curious about the cross-section of African American History and International Relations.“

Clarence Lusane, American University, Washington, DC,
author of Hitler’s Black Victims: The Historical Experiences of European Blacks, Africans and African Americans during the Nazi Era

“A Breath of Freedom is a fresh breath of air in the field of African American history, blowing captivating new insights into the transnational dimensions of the black freedom struggle and the role that soldiers’ experiences abroad played in it. With its historical precision and engaging storytelling, this book is sure to appeal to general audiences and scholars alike.“

Simon Wendt, University of Frankfurt,
author of The Spirit and the Shotgun: Armed Resistance and the Struggle for Civil Rights

“This beautifully written book eloquently illustrates how people and cultures work in tandem, sometimes struggling against, sometimes inspiring one another, and how, in the case of Germans and African Americans, this historical entanglement inevitably helped both societies move toward the North Star of greater freedom for all. Höhn and Klimke’s account thus encourages you to believe again in the possibilities of Martin Luther King’s ‘World House’.“

Joy Ford Austin, Executive Director, Humanities Council of Washington, DC,
and former president of the African American Museums Association

“Depicting the African American GI as the unheralded keystone of the civil rights movement in America during the post-WWII era, this book exhilaratingly exposes the two-facedness of America denazifying Germany while practicing Jim Crow segregation in its own military. With a thorough analysis of the African American press’s role in exposing this hypocrisy, it reveals the many ways in which subsequent civil rights leaders owe their success to the groundwork laid by African American GIs. Together, they forged the space to launch a civil rights revolution in America.“

Calvin Robinson, President, NAACP, Rhein-Neckar Branch (Heidelberg, Germany)

“By honoring the service of African American soldiers and their families, this powerful and comprehensive book successfully shines a spotlight on the historic intersection between the struggle against Nazism and the emergence of the civil rights movement in the United States. Honest and straightforward in describing the circumstances under which these GIs volunteered to serve, Höhn and Klimke meticulously document their sacrifices and contributions at a pivotal time in history. Acknowledging the present day challenges that remain with respect to racial prejudice and discrimination on both sides of the Atlantic, the book is an important reference and required reading for students, scholars, and the many veterans and families who share their personal experiences.“

Rosemarie Pena, President, Black German Cultural Society

“The first study of its kind, A Breath of Freedom explores German interactions with the African American civil rights movement both from the Western and Eastern side of Iron Curtain. Of special significance is Höhn and Klimke’s incorporation of the East German perspective, including groundbreaking accounts of Martin Luther King’s 1964 visit to the divided city of Berlin, East Germany’s celebration of Angela Davis as a communist superstar, and the fate of black US soldiers who defected to the GDR. With vital new insights on the interrelatedness of African American and German history at the height of the Cold War, this book unquestionably makes a major contribution to the emerging scholarship on the international dimension of the black freedom struggle.“

Britta Waldschmidt-Nelson, University of Munich,
author of Dreams and Nightmares: Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and the Struggle for Black Equality in America

“This engaging and well-researched book is a must-read for scholars and students of military history, civil rights history, political science, as well as the social sciences. Combining different strands of African American history and honoring the individual contributions of numerous veterans and black activists, it provides valuable historical and cultural context to illustrate the range and depth of the civil rights movement.“

Jerome Long, Wesleyan University, served in the U.S. Army in Austria and Germany in 1952-54

“This important study amends Cold War history by delineating the substantial, though very different, roles that African Americans played in East and West Germany before the fall of the Wall. The volume makes a significant contribution to the expanding fields of Black Diaspora and Transnational Studies.“

Sara Lennox, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, former President of the German Studies Association

“With an abundance of eyewitness accounts, contemporary news reports, and other historical materials, Höhn and Klimke demonstrate the irony of black American soldiers experiencing a true breath of freedom in the land of the former Nazi racial state. They reveal how these GIs and returning veterans, flanked by their segregated military units and their newfound freedom abroad, were motivated to call for justice in the army and at home. Thus, this book provides the definitive link between black American soldiers and the civil rights movement and places the freedom struggle on the worldwide stage of history.“

Maggi M. Morehouse, University of South Carolina, Aiken,
author of Fighting in the Jim Crow Army: Black Men and Women Remember World War II

“With this most important volume, Höhn and Klimke render a novel viewpoint on the captivating history of African American freedom fighters by recounting the manifold ways in which black men serving in the military advanced the process of liberating Americans, as well as Germans, from the traps of racism.“

Pellom McDaniels III, University of Missouri, Kansas City,
curator of They Came to Fight: African Americans and the Great World War

“This thoughtful, innovative study operates on several levels, prompting readers to think about the issue of race relations in US history as it relates to both domestic and international politics. … Useful for all people interested in the US civil rights struggle and postwar German society. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries.“

J. Kleiman, University of Wisconsin Colleges, Choice

> Return to top
> Back to book