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“I am happy here in Germany…I got tired of being a second class citizen. I feel like a man now, and people treat me like a man –which is more than I can say about the place where I was born.”

A black GI on his decision to stay in Germany after his tour of duty, from Negro Digest (March 1949)

 




NEWS:

New Documentary:
"Breath of Freedom: Black Soldiers and the Battle for Civil Rights" (narrated by Cuba Gooding, Jr.).
Premiers February 17, 8pm ET/PT on Smithsonian Channel
> more

 

New Article:
"Freed's enduring photos of march part of exhibit"
> more

 

New Article by
Sophie Lorenz:
„Heldin des anderen Amerikas“
Die DDR-Solidaritätsbewegung
für Angela Davis, 1970–1973.
> more



New Film:
"The West Point -
Vassar College Initiative"
> more



A Breath of Freedom
By Maria Höhn &
Martin Klimke
Palgrave Macmillan October 2010
> more

 

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Teaching

One of the central aims of this digital archive is to foster the integration of the materials it contains into existing curricula and the development of new sources for teaching, as well as to provide suggestions for new visual and reading material for classes related to the African-American civil rights struggle at home and abroad.

Below you will find an example for a course on “Military Service, Citizenship, and the Struggle of African American for Civil Rights at Home and Abroad“ that was developed by Maria Höhn at Vassar College as part of our research and digitization efforts.

Another example is a seminar on “Histories and Fictions: The Berlin Wall in American Culture“ developed by Paul Farber, a visiting fellow at the GHI Washington in 2010/2011, at the University of Michigan (Spring 2010). Making use of of primary sources from our digital archive, among other things, his course explores the connection between postwar Berlin and Cold War civil rights by discussing key concepts such freedom, identity, and history.

Further examples from the National Archives' “Teaching With Documents“ series include:

  • The Fight for Equal Rights: Black Soldiers in the Civil War  > more
  • Photographs of the 369th Infantry and African Americans during World War I  > more
  • The Many Faces of Paul Robeson > more



Military Service, Citizenship,
and the Struggle of

African American for Civil Rights at Home and Abroad


Professor Maria Höhn
History Department, Vassar College

American Cultures 301.51
Senior Colloquium, Spring 2008
M 6:00-8:00 PM (NE 101)


Course Description

The Senior Seminar in American Cultures offers a study of particular forms and concepts, versions and visions of American community at the local, national, and international level. The course aims to enable students through individual and group projects to explore contested issues and methodological problems in American Studies. Our theme for this year is Military Service, Citizenship, and the Struggle of African Americans for Civil Rights at Home and Abroad.

Course Requirements

Each student is required to attend and participate actively during each meeting of the seminar. Class participation is a crucial part of the overall grade. If you are uncomfortable speaking in class, come and talk to me. You are also responsible for a number of written exercises (listed below).

Academic Disability

Academic accommodations are available for students with documented disabilities. Please schedule an appointment with the instructor early in the semester to discuss any accommodation that may be needed for the course. All accommodations must be approved through the Office of Disability and Support Services (ext. 7584) as indicated in their accommodation letter.

Grade Distribution

Reaction Papers/Class Participation: 30
Individual Research (The Crisis): 30
Group Research Project: 40

Required Books

Stephen Harris, Harlem's Hell Fighters
Wiliam Gardner Smith, The Last of the Conquerors
Maria Höhn, GIs and Fräuleins
Maggi Morehouse, Fighting in the Jim Crow Army
Steve Estes, I Am a Man

-All other readings are available on Blackboard


Research Sources

You can consult the Kaiser Index (E 185.K.25) or the Negro History Bulletin (E 185.5.N583) to do literature searches related to our research topic.  Gretchen Lieb will meet with us during our first seminar to help us think about research sources, but I also encourage you to meet with Gretchen Lieb (grlieb) individually to help you sort out the rich materials that are available. We will also meet with my research assistant Jessie Regunberg, who will give you a perspective on her contributions to the website project so far.

Blacks in the U.S. Armed Forces (13 v. on 5 microfilm reels) is now available in the Microtext Room.

Civil Rights Documentation Project, Mississippi, which has a number of interviews with civil rights activists who were WWII veterans, click here.

Bibliography of Sources on Minority Veterans

Digital Librarian: African Americans


Assignments
Reaction Papers

For 6 of the meetings, students must submit a 2-page commentary on the material they have read for that week’s discussion. The commentary should include original thoughts on the subject matter. Insights can take the form of a critique of the readings, but I also encourage you to relate particular readings to those from pervious weeks. These papers are to be posted on blackboard by Sunday 5PM.

Research Projects
I am listing a number of important African American publications that we will research: The Crisis, Negro Digest (Black World after 1961), Ebony, Jet Magazine, Opportunity, Amsterdam News (microfilm 380), and Pittsburg Courier (microfilm 596). These primary sources from African American publications will serve as the research basis for individual group projects, and for our shared class project, the Vassar-based Website on The Civil Rights Struggle, African American GI, and Germany.

Class Project
For the class project, we will read our way through the NAACP’s publication The Crisis. We will start with WWI and take our exploration all the way to the occupation of Germany after 1945. Be careful and deliberate in your research. The plan is to include your research on the Vassar based website after we assure permission from the NAACP to post these essays.

Group Projects
I have chosen three topics that you can explore more comprehensively in a smaller group setting. For these projects, you are free to consult any kind of publication. For the group project on “The 1969-71 Racial Crisis in the Military” I also expect you to research the “mainstream white” press and how they responded to the events taking place in military bases in Germany. Publications such as the New York Times, Washington Post, New Yorker Magazine, Monthly Atlantic, New Republic, The Nation should be consulted. We will discuss in class the format for the individual research presentations. You are also responsible for a formal written assessment of your findings.

We are currently also trying to arrange meetings with former veterans who might be interviewed for our project.


Class Meetings and Assigned Readings

Week 1 - 28 January
Organizational Meeting


Week 2 - 4 February
Citizenship and Military Service

-*Levee én Masse
-*Jim Cullen, “It’s A Man Now, Gender and African American Men,” in Darlene Hine, ed. A Question of Manhood
-*Amy Kaplan, “Black and Blue on San Juan Hill”

Week 3 - 11 February
African Americans Abroad - WWI

-Steven Harris, Harlem Hellfighters
-*Tyver Stovall, Paris Noir, 1-49
-Each student will be responsible for contributing primary research sources from the NAACP’s publication, The Crisis.  I will assign what months and years you will explore.

Week 4 - 18 February
African Americans React to the War
-*Du Bois editorial, “Close Ranks” in Crisis July 1918
-Chad Williams, “Vanguard of the New Negro: African American Veterans and Postwar Racial Militancy,” Journal of African American History (summer 2007) No. 3, 347-71.
-Each student will be responsible for contributing primary research sources from the NAACP’s publication, The Crisis.  I will assign what months and years you will explore.

Week 6 - 25 February
WWII - A New Opportunity?
-Sherie Mershon and Steven Schlossman, Foxholes and Color Lines, 1-51.
-Morehouse, Serving in a Jim Crow Army
-*Crisis January 1942 Editorial, “Now is Not the Time to be Quiet.”
-”The Negro Soldier,” propaganda film produced by the War Department Special Service Division during WWII
-Each student will be responsible for contributing primary research sources from the NAACP’s publication, The Crisis.  I will assign what months and years you will explore. Please focus on essays related to the American struggle against Nazi Germany, and how Africa Americans viewed that Struggle. The other focus will be the editorials and news coverage related to the Double-V campaign of the Pittsburgh Courier

Week 7 - 3 March
African Americans in the Occupation of Germany

-*William Gardner Smith, The Last of the Conquerors.  This 1948 novel is out of print, but is available as a used book on Amazon. I will also put it on reserve.
-*Langston Hughes, “My America,” 299-307 in Rayford Logan, What the Negro Wants.
-*Sterling Brown, “Count Us In,” in Logan, What the Negro Wants
-Each student will be responsible for contributing primary research sources from the NAACP’s publication, The Crisis.  I will assign what months and years you will explore.

Week 8 - 24 March
The War in Korea – Cold War Imperatives
-Maria Höhn, GIs and Fräuleins
-Students are responsible for collecting primary sources materials related to their group projects. We will discuss your findings during the seminar.

Week 9 - 31 March
Military Service and Civil Rights

-Steve Estes, I am A Man, 1-151
-Students are responsible for collecting primary sources materials related to their group projects. We will discuss your findings during the seminar.

Week 10 - 7 April
Civil Disobedience or Black Power?

-Simon Wendt, “They Finally Found Out that We Really Are Men’: Violence, Non-Violence, and Black Manhood in the Civil Rights Era“, in: Gender & History 19 (November 2007): 543-564.
-*Malcolm X, “The Ballot or the Bullet”
-Students are responsible for collecting primary sources materials related to their group projects. We will discuss your findings during the seminar.

Week 11 - 14 April
Vietnam War – A New Militancy
-Steve Estes, I am A Man, 152-187
-*Herman Graham, Brothers For a Year, 67-119
-*Tyver Stovall, Paris Noir, 216-281
-*Editors of The Black Scholar, “We Are All Soldiers,” and Wallace Terry, “Bringing the War Home,” 2-18
-Students are responsible for collecting primary sources materials related to their group projects. We will discuss your findings during the seminar

Week 12  - 21 April
Black Panthers Abroad
-*Maria Höhn, “The Black Panther Solidarity Committees” (German Studies Review February 2008)
-*Martin Klimke’s chapter “Black and Red Panthers” from his book The Other Alliance (forthcoming with Princeton University Press, 2010)
-NAACP, “The Search for Military Justice. Report of the NAACP Inquiry into the Problems of the Negro Servicemen in West Germany.” (1971)
-Students are responsible for collecting primary sources materials related to their group projects. We will discuss your findings during the seminar.

Week 13 - 28 April
Class Presentations of Individual Research Projects
Group I: African American Publications and the Rise of Nazism

Group II: The 1969-71 Racial Crisis in Military Bases Abroad


Week 14 - 5 May
Class Presentation of Group Research Projects
Group III: Military Service, Manhood and Women?