High Road to Culture in Flanders and the Netherlands


High Road to Culture in Flanders and the Netherlands

Black Liberators: African-American Soldiers in the Netherlands

Black Liberators: African-American Soldiers in the Netherlands

A travelling exhibition pays tribute to the forgotten black soldiers who helped to liberate the Netherlands during the Second World War.

When the Dutch are asked about the soldiers who liberated the Netherlands in 1944 and 1945, they think of white American, Canadian, English and maybe of Polish soldiers. Many are unaware that about 10% of the American liberation army in Europe consisted of black soldiers. Despite their merits, the stories of African-American liberators have disappeared from Dutch collective memory, historiography and - until recently - from national commemoration. They are forgotten heroes. The exhibition ‘Black Liberators: African-American soldiers in the Netherlands’ wants to make these soldiers visible again.

Because of the scarcity of historical documentation it is of great importance to cherish existing stories about them. Six artfully woven tapestries highlight various chapters in the history of Afro-American soldiers, focusing on the Netherlands. Also, there is a display of historical documentation. The tapestries are based on the artwork of Brian Elstak, the design is by Lyanne Tonk, and the tapestries are made by FiberArt Pure Country Weavers.

Travelling exhibition

The exhibition ‘Black Liberators: African-American soldiers in the Netherlands’ is to be visited at the Vrijheidsmuseum in Groesbeek (16 September – 25 November 2019), Theater aan het Vrijthof in Maastricht (1 December 2019 - 25 January 2020) and at NIOD, Netherlands Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies in Amsterdam (3 February 2020 - 10 April 2020). Furthermore, a series of lessons will be available for high school education; organized by The John Adams Institute, and supported by Stichting LovingDay.NL.

Graphic novel

The exhibition is combined with the graphic novel Franklin: Een Nederlands bevrijdingsverhaal (Franklin: A Dutch Liberation Story), designed by Brian Elstak, written by Marga Altena and the lay-out by Lyanne Tonk. Franklin: Een Nederlands bevrijdingsverhaal is a fictional story based on historic sources such as diaries of Dutchmen, and memories of African-American soldiers of the segregated American army, the liberation of Europe and their contacts with the Dutch population. The graphic novel describes a romance between an African-American soldier and a white Dutch girl, and talks about the search of their granddaughter after her family history and her identity as a woman of color.


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