This moving and beautifully illustrated book, developed from an award-winning research project, examines the experience of African-American GIs in Germany since 1945 and the unique insights they provide into the civil rights struggle at home and abroad. Because of the American military occupation after World War II, America's unresolved civil rights agenda was exposed to world-wide scrutiny as never before. America's ambitious efforts to democratize German society after the defeat of Nazism also meant that West Germany was exposed to American ideas of freedom and democracy to a much larger degree than many other countries.
The politicization and radicalization of African-American GIs over civil rights took on a particular significance in light of Germany's central role in US strategic thinking and its symbolic importance as the battle ground between two competing superpowers. While the effects of the African-American Civil Rights Movement reverberated across the globe, Germany represents a special case that illuminates a remarkable period in American and world history.
"The book begins with official U.S. attitudes toward black soldiers in World War I and details the struggle up until the 1970s, when commissions found that blacks were still treated unfairly by a variety of measures, including promotions and the military justice system. It is filled with surprises." - Stars and Stripes
"This thoughtful, innovative study operates on several levels, prompting readers to think about the issue of race relations in US history as it relates to both domestic and international politics. Highly recommended." - CHOICE
"A Breath of Freedomis an important book. By telling the story of African American GIs sent as part of a military occupation designed to teach and instill democratic values in a nation that had recently been ruled by the Nazi party, the authors also tell the story of America's own racist history and practices. Impeccably researched and well written, the authors' passion for the subject is what makes this book as good as it is." - Counterpunch
"Hoehn and Klimke's book is intended for, and deserves, a wide audience. A Breath of Freedom takes in the full sweep of the twentieth century and more ... A Breath of Freedom is a well-presented book that makes a convincing case for the importance of its subject. Scholars will like the new transnational angle. Popular audiences will like the writing and presentation. Teachers will like the Web site and the book's easy pairing with works of popular culture, such as recent films about race and the Allied military. It is a good time for this book. It is also a good time for the more critical treatments of this important subject that are sure to follow." - H-1960s
"A breakthrough in international history, A Breath of Freedom shines a penetrating light on the neglected story of African American troops in Europe. Hoehn and Klimke are the first scholars to situate black GIs' experience in the broad context ofthe twentieth century's wars and achievements. At the same time, the impressive scope of this exhaustively researched work never shortchanges the humanity of the individual soldier." - Brenda Gayle Plummer, University of Wisconsin-Madison, author of Rising Wind: Black Americans and U.S. Foreign Affairs, 1935-1960
"This deeply moving book perfectly captures my own experience as a black soldier in the segregated U.S. army during WWII who took part in the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp of Buchenwald. Hoehn and Klimke vividly illustrate the fundamental impact these events had on my own life and on the lives of so many veterans who later became foot soldiers in the civil rights movement. Our encounters during and after the war in Germany, however, not only spurred our fight for equality and against discrimination wherever it occurred; they also created a long-lasting bond across the Atlantic of an intertwined past and hope for a better future." - Leon Bass, WWII veteran, civil rights activist, and former principal of Benjamin Franklin High School, Philadelphia