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  • Writer's picturesylveahollis

Thoughts on Berlin, Part I

Updated: Jul 18, 2022

**a diary excerpt**


I walked to Charlottenburg Palace via the Tiergarten District and arrived with enough time for a self-guided tour of the "new" (17th c.) and old (Baroque) buildings.

The art was impressive, but the interpretation was lackluster and in many

cases nonexistent. I however thought their use of technology was thoughtful. The audiovisual tour is a phone-like kit with headphones. They also have an app. The content of the tour followed the traditional flow of house museums--focusing mostly on the "clever and art-loving Queen Sophia Charlotte and her husband Frederick I." There was a mention of how the castle's architecture also was a prominent part of early Berlin for everyday citizens. But, I did not learn much about the majority of people who lived on the property--the servants and/or enslaved people or the countless members of the royal family's court. The audiovisual tour does have a section labeled former servants' room. But, the narration is not about the servants. The room looks like a gallery space and the interpretation is about the artwork in the space.

The works at Charlottenburg Palace were fascinating. Most interestingly to me were the early examples of how European artists depicted blackness in portraiture et. al. All of the black people in these works were enslaved or servants. But, again there were no details about the people in these works or the lived experiences of black people in Germany. I found this unfortunate. So much of the contemporary public conversations around Africans in Germany focus on immigration and/or the student visa process. This venue is the perfect place to include--where relevant--more inclusive stories of Germany's (and Prussia's) early history.

The black people were mostly painted in the human form and looked less like caricatures of Jim Crow era. I need to do a bit more sleuthing, but plan to use some of these images in my Early US History and AA History survey courses.

Click Here for Part II

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