Welcome! Here’s what we’re up to.

Hello loyal followers and wide world!

This is just a brief note to let you know what has been happening with Black Central Europe and what you might expect in the coming months. As you’ll see on our homepage, our overarching goal is to produce a resource that will be useful for teachers, students, researchers, activists, and just anyone in the wider public who wants new perspectives on German, European, and Black histories. Our long-term goal is to build a collection of primary sources and integrate them with a broader collection of lesson plans, syllabi,  reading lists, and forum discussions (earlier posts are a start in this direction). Providing these materials in English and in German will allow us to speak to a range of audiences.

As you’ll see if you work your way through the site, we are still in “stage 1,” so to speak. We’re working on gathering, organizing, and formatting our historical sources, translating them where we can do so easily, and this means that some of the site is still incomplete and a bit messy. We hope to have it fully cleaned up by the summer, but we thought that the value of getting this material out in the world outweighed our mild embarrassment at showing it under construction. Hopefully you’ll agree!

I’d like to draw your attention to a couple of outstanding features of the site. You’ll probably have noticed the map on our homepage, which locates various known and lesser known experiences across the German lands. This is the product of students in Kira Thurman’s class at the University of Michigan, and she plans to have them expand on this in the future. Zoom in and out to see what interested them, and we hope that you’re surprised and intrigued by what you find.

We also have an ever-growing collection of videos to watch as well as links to interesting commentators and artists you can find online. We hope that you’ll lose track of time following these.

And of course we have our collection of historical sources, organized by rough time periods. We are working our way from the Middle Ages toward the present, so the more distant eras are the most complete, but new things will pop up all over. I’ll be sure to use blog posts to let you know when new material is available so please follow us to stay up-to-date.

So what have I been working on recently? Lots, but why not check out check out “The Tale of the Friendly Moor and the Suspicious Peasant (1912),” with a new translation of the poem into English? You also might be curious about the life of J. Elmer Spyglass, an African American who lived through the Weimar and Nazi eras and then became an important interlocutor for the American occupiers after 1945. A slideshow of elaborate costumes worn by visitors to the court of the Duke of Saxony give a sense of fantastical imaginings as well as a long history of blackface. Or maybe you would like to read a discussion between Grada Kilomba and René Aguigah over how to deal with “difference” in today’s Germany–can white Germans ask a Person of Color “where do you come from” without being racist, and to what extent are terms like “Afro-German” open for public debate? I’m particularly intrigued by the story of a teenager named Bernhard Epassi, and we have an interview with him that gives a fascinating insight into the experience of migration in the colonial era, how to maintain connections to family back home and how to deal with everyday racism in Germany.

Finally let me make an appeal to anyone who stops by for a while. We’d love to hear how you came to find us, what you find interesting or troubling, and how you are making use of the resource. Not only are we committed to making this useful, but we also want to learn from you how we might expand, improve, or even re-shape what we’re doing. We encourage comments below or to our Twitter account (@bcesn) or direct emails to us (blackcentraleurope@gmail.com).

In the meantime, happy exploring,

Jeff

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