From the latter third of the nineteenth century, in the context of the “scramble for Africa” and the development of a new consumer culture based on catchy images that flattered white European audiences, stereotyped images of Africans became increasingly commonplace in books and toys aimed at young Germans. Such images served to educate in two senses. They were used to teach particular skills (how to read, how to count, how to perform social roles), and they also served to instruct Germans on their inherent superiority over the world’s non-white inhabitants. This example is the earliest known German adaptation of a hit American minstrel song from 1868 entitled “Ten Little Injuns,” in which the ten characters whittle themselves down to none by dying or otherwise disappearing in various gruesome ways. The song was soon adapted as “Ten Little Negroes,” in which form it became a staple of minstrel performances in the U.S. and the U.K. In 1885, the German author F. H. Benary and illustrator C. W. Allers re-wrote the rhyme to capitalize on Germany’s recent colonial acquisitions and published it in their children’s book, Aus Kamerun [From Cameroon].

“Ten Little Negroes” (1885)


Source: F. H. Benary and C. W. Allers, Aus Kamerun. Ein Bilderbuch für kleine und große Kinder. Munich: Braun & Schneider, 1885, images courtesy of Gerd Fahrenhorst.
This analysis was provided by Jeff Bowersox of the Black Central Europe project, https://blackcentraleurope.com/sources/1850-1914/ten-little-negroes-1885/