The former editor of Ebony magazine was born in Nazi Germany. He lived through Nazism in Germany and racism in the United States.
Hans Massaquoi was disappointed when he couldn’t join the Hitler Youth. Pretty much everyone else in his class at school was a member and he wanted to fit in. Massaquoi, of course, couldn’t join because brown skin and black hair had no place in Hitler’s Germany.
In 1926, Hans Massaquoi was born in Hamburg, Germany to a white German mother and a black Liberian father. Massaquoi grew up with his mother; his father was in law school in Dublin before returning to Liberia.
Interestingly, Massaquoi didn’t face the kind of violence and hatred that we associate with Nazi Germany. He once said, “Unlike the Jews, blacks were so few in numbers that we were relegated to low-priority status in the Nazis’ lineup for extermination.” As a bi-racial German, he was relegated to a second-class status that meant he couldn’t pursue a profession. He apprenticed as a blacksmith.
Massaquoi’s second-class status meant that he couldn’t be drafted into the German army during World War II.
Massaquoi emigrated to the United States in 1947. He served two years in the United States army then went on to study Journalism at the University of Illinois. While working for Jet and Ebony, Massaquoi covered the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. Eventually, he worked his way up to managing editor of Ebony Magazine. Massaquoi died in 2013.
Why he should be remembered: Hans Massaquoi lived through two of the largest racial struggles of the twentieth century. He visited Germany often, still claiming Germany as his homeland. He didn’t allow the evil and hatred of Nazi Germany to make him hate the entire country. Similarly, he didn’t allow the violence and anger of pre-Civil Rights America to drive him away.
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