NAACP Honors Transatlantic Research Project with Julius E. Williams Distinguished Community Service Award

Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, the prestigious civil rights organization NAACP (the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) decided to present its Julius E. Williams Distinguished Community Service Award for 2009 to Maria Höhn (Vassar College) and Martin Klimke (German Historical Institute, Washington, DC / Heidelberg Center for American Studies, University of Heidelberg) for their research project and digital archive on “The Civil Rights Struggle, African-American GIs, and Germany” (

The award is named after the first national director of the NAACP Department of Armed Services and Veterans Affairs. Mr. Williams joined the civil rights organization in 1966 and organized the Veterans Affairs Department in 1969. He served in World War II, the Korean Conflict, and Vietnam. His awards include the Legion of Merit Medal, the Soldier’s Medal, and the Purple Heart.

The award recognizes an organization that has influenced broad service initiatives to develop veterans and community service partnerships. It was given at the Centennial Convention of the NAACP scheduled for July 11–16, 2009, in New York City. The award presentation took place during a private reception preceding the NAACP’s Annual Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Awards Banquet on July 14. Speakers at the event included James T. Conway, Commandant of the Marine Corps and member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as David N. Dinkins, the first African-American mayor of New York City.

For the NAACP 2009 Dinner Agenda, please see here: PDF.

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NAACP Award Reception and 35th Annual Armed Services & Veterans Affairs Awards Dinner

NAACP Julius E. Williams Distinguished Community Service Award Nominee 2009

The Civil Rights Struggle, African-American GIs, and Germany

A collaborative research project of the German Historical Institute (GHI), Washington, DC, the Heidelberg Center for American Studies (HCA), University of Heidelberg, and Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY.

Initiated by Maria Höhn and Martin Klimke, this research project and digital archive explores the connection between the establishment of American military bases abroad and the advancement of civil rights in the U.S. It investigates the role that African-American GIs played in carrying the demands of the civil rights movement abroad beginning with World War II. Höhn and Klimke’s initial focus has been Germany, which has been home to the largest contingent of American troops deployed outside the United States for the past 60 years.

Since 1945 almost 20 million American soldiers, along with their families and civilian employees, have served tours of duty in Germany, and about 3 million of those Americans have been African American. By giving voice to their experience and to that of the people who interacted with them over civil rights demands and racial discrimination on both sides of the Atlantic, Höhn and Klimke are preserving and expanding the history of the African-American civil rights movement beyond the boundaries of the U.S.

Their research project, which includes an oral history collection and a digital archive, has three main goals:

  • first, to gather historic material related to this important but little known chapter of the African-American civil rights movement as well as its connection to German history while preserving the sources in a digital archive;
  • second, to make these sources available worldwide and free of charge to scholars, teachers, students and interested parties around the globe;
  • third, to foster the growth of a community of individuals who are engaged in teaching and learning about the African American civil rights movement, its reverberations outside the U.S., as well as about the history of African American GIs who were deployed in Europe during and after the Second World War.

Maria Höhn, an established scholar of the American military presence in Germany whose works are well known in North America and Europe, teaches German history at Vassar College. Her seminal book, GIs and Fräuleins: The German-American Encounter in 1950s West Germany, published in 2002 by the University of North Carolina Press, was the first ever to address the experience of black soldiers in postwar Germany.

Martin Klimke is a research fellow at the German Historical Institute, Washington, DC, and at the Heidelberg Center for American Studies (HCA) at the University of Heidelberg in Germany. A widely published historian on protest movements, his latest book, The Other Alliance: Student Protest in West Germany and the United States in the Global Sixties, will be published by Princeton University Press in 2009.

Höhn and Klimke are currently writing a history of the experience of African-American soldiers, activists, and intellectuals in Germany in the 20th century entitled From DuBois to Obama: The Civil Rights Struggle, African-American GIs, and Germany.

Their photo exhibition “The Civil Rights Struggle, African-American GIs, and Germany” is currently on display in both Germany and the U.S.
> Exhibition Schedule

For further information about the project and photo exhibition, please contact Laura Stapane at

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