Thursday 6 June 2024

Let's Learn Some Black History in Germany!!!

Hans-Jürgen Massaquoi (1926-2013) was born in Hamburg, the son of a white German nurse and a Black Liberian businessman. He grew up in the house of his grandfather, Momoulu Massaquoi who was both the Liberian Consul-General in Hamburg and also an important contact for Black travellers to Germany. He and his mother remained in Germany when political trouble took his father and grandfather back to Liberia, and they had to accustom themselves both to the realities of a working-class lifestyle and to the rise of the Nazis. 

PS: Massaquoi wanted to fit in with his friends, but soon the realities of life under Hitler made it clear that his skin color would make his life difficult and occasion much soul-searching about his identity. While his life became more dangerous, at the same time, he found it possible to maintain close relationships that protected him through to the end of the war.  After the war, he travelled to the United States, joined the US Army, and later earned a journalism degree. He became an important media figure, rising eventually to become the managing editor of Ebony magazine. His 1999 autobiography, written in English and translated into German and later produced as a two-part tv movie (2006), offered a unique insight into the everyday experiences of growing up black in Weimar and Nazi Germany. 

In this passage, Massaquoi recounts an encounter with a “people show” (Völkerschau) at the Hamburg zoo when he was less than four years old. It is not clear exactly which exhibition Massaquoi is remembering. Hilke Thode-Arora notes that he could be referring to a visit by a troupe of Oromo to the zoo in May 1929 or perhaps a group of Somalis who travelled with Hagenbeck’s circus but never performed in the zoo, or he could refer to a 1931 visit by dark-skinned Pacific islanders. Regardless of the precise encounter, he describes a profoundly upsetting experience for a small boy. Not only did he recognize the fraudulent caricature on display, of Africans who looked nothing like his relatives, but he was himself suddenly drawn into a public spectacle of racial otherness in what Had been a familiär place.

#Africa #Germany

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