During the interwar period Germany’s black population was increasingly being drawn into and actively participating in transnational networks of black internationalism. Black Germans were in growing contact with African Americans who they encountered as touring performers and as newspaper reporters. In the late 1920s several representatives of the African-American press, including Joel Augustus Rogers and Robert Sengstacke Abbott visited Germany. Abbott, founder and editor of the Chicago Defender, spent time in Berlin in 1929 where he met with many members of the city’s black community including the Cameroonian Victor Bell.
The letter below sent from Bell to Abbott, to mark the Defender’s silver jubilee, is evidence of the two-way communication lines between Germany’s black population and African Americans. In it Bell expresses a sense of race solidarity with Abbott and African Americans. Notably, he writes as a representative of the League for the Defence of the Negro Race (German Section) – a communist sponsored organisation, which was partly set up by the Paris-based, French Sudanese, activist Tiemoko Garan Kouyaté, head of a sister section in France. This highlights different, more radical diasporic transnational links Black Germans were simultaneously also involved in.
Robert S. Abbott
Dear Sir: We cannot allow the silver jubilee of your paper to pass without sending you hearty congratulations and best wishes from the German section of the League for the Defense of the Negro Race. Our league appreciates the splendid work that you have been doing for the Negro race during the last quarter of a century, and we trust that you will continue your activities in the interests of our Race until it has acquired the fullest equality, economically, politically and socially, with the other races of the world.
We feel convinced that the success of The Chicago Defender is due to the energy, initiative and organizational capacity of its directors, whose work cannot have been an easy task in a country where our Race is exposed to the brutalities of the white man. We remain, dear sir, yours sincerely, VICTOR BELL.
League for the Defense of the Negro Race (German section), Friedrichstrasse 24, Berlin S.W. 48
‘Congratulations’, Chicago Defender, 24 May 1930, p.4