34 Race & Class 51(3)
Shortly after the end of the first world war, the German government initiated a racist propaganda campaign against the stationing, as part of the Allied occupation, of French colonial troops from Africa in the German Rhineland. Called the ‘Black Shame’, the campaign relied upon images of black sexual debauchery and the perceived threat to German womanhood and nationhood, as well as German ‘racial purity’. Protests against black troops were part of Germany’s anti-French and anti-Versailles propaganda. However, the campaign rapidly developed an unexpected, and international, dynamic, drawing support from a wide range of individuals and organisations across political and national boundaries.
The degree to which race, class, national and gender stereotypes combine to reinforce one another is a subject of controversial theoretical debate in the contemporary social sciences, where a growing body of research emphasises structural links between these categories.1 The occurrence of the ‘Black Shame’ episode, a little known but highly significant aspect of modern European history, not only demonstrates the depth of racist sentiment embedded within contemporaneous European thought and spanning the political divide. It also provides an important contribution to the debate on the symbiosis of race, class, gender and national stereotypes in the formation of ‘interlinked discriminations’.2 In what follows, I outline the main findings of my research on the inter-
Figure 1. Photograph of French colonial soldiers in the German Rhineland Reprinted by kind permission of Stadtarchiv Mainz