In the winter of 2016, the German Department teamed up with the History Department and the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies (DAAS) to explore these questions in the class, “Germany and the Black Diaspora” (GER 396/HIS 396/AAS 395). The course explored black identities throughout Central European history, beginning in the medieval era and ending in the present day. The eighteen students who took the course not only interacted with each other; they also engaged online with students from University College London and from the University of Missouri who were also taking the same class (taught by Kristin Kopp at the University of Missouri, and Jeff Bowersox at University College London).
One of the highlights of the semester was the creation of a digital map of Black Germany, which featured historical figures, paintings, and events that explained an aspect of Black German history. With help from U-M librarians Justin Joque and Mara Blake, students learned geo-spatial technologies to create a shared digital map. The purpose of the map is to “make the invisible visible” and show that black people have always been a part of Central European history. Using digital technologies to capture their stories—from the beatification of St. Maurice in the 1200s to the life of Afro-German soccer player Gerald Asamoah—allowed students to see the rich and diverse history of German-speaking Europe. For more information, visit www.blackcentraleurope.com.