Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Black, White, and German: Afro-Germans and German Identity

Dr. Wendy Sutherland.

In this paper, I would like to present the stages of identity development of Afro-German women I have observed in autobiographical texts, such as Farbe bekennen. Schwarze Frauen bekennen Farbe (Showing our Colors: Afro-German Women Speak Out) and Ika Hügel-Marshall’s autobiography, Daheim unterwegs (Invisible Woman: Growing up Black in Germany). As a contrast, I will briefly discuss Hans Massaquoi’s Neger, Neger Schornsteinfeger (Destined to Witness: Growing up Black in Nazi Germany), which provides an example of an Afro-German male. Implicit in the discussion of Afro-German identity is the definition of who is German, a definition, which traditionally has excluded the Black. Issues concerning citizenship and race, blood and belonging function to create a framework for the discussion of Afro-German identity. Also important to the context of Afro-German identity formation are the circumstances associated with the Afro-German’s presence in Germany, such as post-war occupation and the associations of German defeat and failure, which also frame the context of the subject’s identity development.

I specifically will look at Afro-German women, who were born to black and absent fathers and white German mothers, grew up in Germany and identify as German, and whose native tongue is German. In my presentation, I would like to suggest that the female subject faces ten stages of development, which are marked by innocence, rejection, alienation, objectification, failure, recognition, discovery and integration, all of which are necessary in order for the individual to embrace an identity that is both black and German.


Dr. Wendy Sutherland  (United States)
CSMP Fellow and Lecturer
Department of German Studies
Grinnell College

  • Afro-Germans
  • German identity
  • Race in Germany
  • Afro-German autobiography
Person as Subject
  • Hügel-Marshall, Ika Opitz, May Oguntoye, Katharina Schultz, Dagmar Massaquoi, Hans

(Virtual Presentation, English)