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Let's start exploring!

2001.16.25 East Street View of La Grange bw_zoomed_bearbeitet.jpg

You are in La Grange, Texas, in the 1890s.


A group of people has gathered at the East side of the town square to take a picture in front of the Heintze store. The side-walk is packed. German immigrants and African Americans are  standing side by side. This seemingly unremarkable scene would not have occurred in most parts of the American South at the time. The efforts to establish equal rights had failed. Instead, rules of racial segregation were being firmly established, and there was a constant threat of violence. In many towns, "Jim Crow laws" made sure that black people had to step off the sidewalk and remove their hats when whites came along, for example. Not in La Grange...


So what was different in this town?

(Louis Melcher photograph, circa 1895, of a crowd gathered on Washington Street on the town square in La Grange, courtesy of Fayette Heritage Museum)

Near Brenham, Texas, in the 1890s, you bump into this crowd.


It is a German Schützenverein (shooting club) that gathered to pose for a group picture. The marksmen are lifting their pistols. A few hats, and a flower are in the air... The boys are having fun. As you look closer and hover over some faces, you wonder: Are these only white men of German ancestry? Or do these faces show traces of other races?


Were men of color able to join this club?


(Picture of unidentified origin, possibly Winkelmann's Studio, likely 1890s, Schützenverein in Brenham; courtesy of Brenham Heritage Museum & Gloria Nix)


In the 1950s, you are standing in a country store near Winchester, Texas.


The store is owned by a Wendish German family, but most customers come from Center Union, a nearby freedom colony. Black Texans established over 500 of these colonies after the end of slavery to escape white violence and preserve their autonomy.  Center Union has its own school, community center and churches. On the way to the store you noticed a number of road signs with German names. How strange... Inside the store, a black man is walking up to the counter. He seems to be one of the veterans that returned from Europe a few years back. Wait...


Did he just speak German to the white shop owner?

If these examples raise interesting questions about Afro-German relations in Texas, you can start by further browsing the menu above.

(Sketch of the Goebel Store near Winchester, Fayette Co; courtesy of Nathan Anderson)

Alternatively, you can start with a learning game by clicking Los geht's! (a German way of saying "Let's go!").

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