Blog, Book Reviews

In Audre’s Footsteps: Expanding Black American Intellectual Traditions in Europe

Book cover of In Audre's Footsteps in front of a mural featuring a Black woman with a speech bubble that says READ!

There’s a long history of Black American intellectuals living or spending significant time in Europe. You’re probably familiar with James Baldwin’s time in France or maybe you’ve read a bit about Frederick Douglass’ travels in Ireland and England. But did you know Audre Lorde spent significant time in Germany? Despite encountering her work throughout my academic career, I was surprised to learn that she spent much of the ’80s and early ’90s in Berlin. Her work there centered on German women of African descent, eventually leading her to coin the term “Afro-German,” which was later established in writing by her colleagues May Ayim, Katharina Oguntoye, and Dagmar Shultz in their book Farbe Bekennen or Showing Our Colors in English.

It is this tradition that inspired Colorado College professor Heidi Lewis to quite literally follow in Audre’s footsteps and plant roots in Berlin as well. Colorado College encourages its students to study abroad and its faculty to create interesting study abroad curricula. Surprising no one, the study abroad curricula was overwhelmingly white. As a Black woman, Heidi knew it was time to change that. She began to build her course “Hidden Spaces, Hidden Narratives: Intersectionality Studies in Berlin.”

“What we know and how we come to know it are filtered through our experiences. There is no way to filter out the insidious ways in which white supremacy, especially as it manifests in academia, influences what is considered knowledge, what is valued as an acceptable way to gain knowledge and who is viewed as knowledgeable or as having the potential to create knowledge.”

In Audre’s Footsteps, p. 81

In Audre’s Footsteps: Transnational Table Talk edited by Heidi R. Lewis, Dana Maria Asbury, and Jazlyn Andrews (edition assemblage 2021) is a brilliant record of Heidi’s framework and methods to advancing Black feminist studies and international collaboration in Berlin. This book is a collection of conversations with Black feminist artists, scholars and activists in Berlin who inspired and assisted in the study abroad course, as well as candid discussions of racism, misogyny, and colorism between Black American women and Black German women, plus much more. Acting as a direct counterpoint to the white American cannon, Heidi and her collaborators deliberately center Black voices and Black experiences in the US and Germany. Ultimately, the reader is left with a rich tapestry of stories, opinions, and examples for how to do exceptional transnational feminist work. You’ll want to read this book with a highlighter or sticky tabs in hand — so many nuggets of wisdom that stand out!

We have to think more transnationally about racism to build solidarity.

In Audre’s Footsteps, p. 102

Let this book expand your understanding of transnational Black feminism while supporting a small German press! (This link is an Amazon link to the book. You know we prefer to purchase books through but because this is a German press, it is only available through Book Depository which distributes through Amazon.)

Thank you to author Heidi Lewis for sending us a complementary copy of this book and sponsoring this post!

Renee Powers founded Feminist Book Club in 2018 to provide a space for intersectional feminists to learn, grow, and connect. When not reading or running the biz, you can find her drinking coffee and trying unsuccessfully to teach her retired racing greyhound how to fetch. Favorite genres: feminist thrillers, contemporary literary fiction, short stories, and anything that might be described as "irreverent"

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