Sketch of depicting slavery of an adult and child.

Black History in Germany

Drawing on her research on the history of Africans in Germany and on German involvements in transatlantic slavery, Professor Eve Rosenhaft has contributed to raising consiousness about European Black history and to the commemoration of diasporic experience by working with NGOs, public research institutions, theatre professionals and film-makers.

Research Action

Eve's research informed a series of public history events in Bremen, Germany by providing material and advice for the development of a script based on the struggle for family life of one of the Afro-German subjects of her research. 

The script premiered in June 2017 in the context of a week of city-wide events under the rubric 'Decolonise Bremen'. At the invitation of the Heinrich-Böll Stiftung, an NGO specialising in political education, Eve delivered a public lecture on 'Black and White Bremen - Women in the Afro-German community'. At these events individuals found their attitudes challenged, and representatives of the Black community found a new platform to express their concerns. 

In January 2016, Eve published an on-line article about the Nazi persecution of Black people. The article has gained a continuous and growing global readership; as of October 2020 it had received 750,000 reads and 3500 social media reposts. 

In 2015 she organised a summer course on the Black presence in Early Modern Europe at the Herzog August Library in Wolfenbüttel (HAB). As the German national research library for early modern studies, the HAB has considerable responsibility for public engagement and education as well as development. 

Working in Partnership

The original research behind this project was conducted with financial support from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), and led to the publication of Eve Rosenhaft and Robbie Aitken's co-authored book, Black Germany: The Making and Unmanking of a Diaspora Community (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013). More recent publications linked to the project include: 

Eve has worked with the following partners: the Heinrich-Böll-Stifting Foundation; Bremer Shakespeare Company; Tantrum films production company; and the Herzog August library in Wolfenbüttel. 

Outputs and Outcomes

Following publication of 'What happened to Black people under the Nazis?', film maker Amma Asante invited Eve to act as historical consultant for the feature film Where Hands Touch (premiere September 2018), whose central character is an Afro-German teenager growing up in Nazi Germany.  By November 2020 the film will have reached audiences all over the world through theatrical releases and TV and streaming platforms. 

Still from the film 'Where Hands Touch'

Drawing on the outcome of the Slavery Hinterland project, Eve has also helped to promote awareness of diaspora scholarship in early modern studies, with implications specifically for the ethical commitments and practice of public institutions. 

As a result of the summer course at HAB, which attracted students and tutors of African descent from both Europe and the United States, the identity of the HAB itself was engaged in new ways, with implications for society at large, as well as for the scholarship. The library staff were provoked and challenged to develop a new understanding of their own collections. 

 

I can honestly say the Eve's course sharpened the HAB's consciousness of being part of a scholarly culture which has marginalised the contribution of Black Africans in Europe and especially Central Europe.

Director of Summer Course programme - HAB

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