The Role of African Americans and U.S. Popular Culture on Freedom Movements in East Germany

Following the conclusion of World War II and through the early years of the Cold War, the United States and Soviet Union were set on a world stage unlike any nations before them. With each political maneuver and proxy war waged, peoples around the world gained new insights into democratic and socialist systems and the advantages and disadvantages of the contrasting political ideologies. Perhaps the most influential issue of debate between these nations was the treatment of non-white peoples and the development of their civil liberties. The USSR often used propaganda and political reporting to bring the attention of civil injustice in America to countries under Soviet control or nations that the Soviet’s hoped to ally themselves with. As a major site of conflict between the opposing ideologies of the world powers, the divided German nation serves as an excellent gauge for the extent of the relationship between political movements, American culture, and African Americans and their struggles for civil rights. Through the first fifteen years following World War II, the influence of African Americans’ presence in Germany, exposure to American popular culture (especially African American music), and the complex intermingling of varying ways of life were a major contribution to the youth riots and mass exodus that occurred in East Germany.