'Black Germans do not exist'. (Cover Story).
"To this day, German historiography has taken insufficient notice of them; people of African descent or Black Germans. This is the case although they have a history dating back more than one hundred years in our country," says the German Commissioner for Foreigners' Affairs, Barbara John, in the introduction to Paulette Reed-Anderson's Rewriting The Footnotes -- Berlin and The African Diaspora.
"In contrast to popular opinion," Barbara continues, "African immigrants did not first come to us in recent decades; the roots of Black Berliners go back much further and are closely connected to the history of the slave trade and colonial history, but also to the history of liberation and human rights movements.
"And so it is that the largely ignored subject of the Black victims of National Socialism [Nazism], has only been reappraised in the last few years. Like the Jewish Germans or German Gypsies and Romany, Black Germans were also robbed of their human dignity during the period of the Nazi tyranny, deprived of their German nationality; many were deported and murdered in concentration camps."
When Hitler came to power in 1933, Germany had a sizable black population. By the time he was defeated in 1945, only a few scores remained -- 2,000 of them had indeed been killed in the Nazi concentration camps with the Jews and others.
The offspring of the Black Germans were even sterilised under the "Nuernberger Laws" (or Citizenship Laws) of September 1935 passed to "protect German blood and German honour". Under these laws, marriages between Aryans and non-Aryans were banned, and black Germans and their spouses lost their German citizenship and the right to claim state support such as unemployment benefits.
The sterilisation was to prevent the Black Germans from having children with "Aryan" Germans. Such a child was considered "impure" or not German enough.
Thanks to Paulette Reed-Anderson, this despicable history of German mistreatment of its black population is now coming out. And Paulette deserves every bit of the encomiums that Barbara John pours on her in the introduction to Rewriting The Footnotes.
Barbara tells how Paulette "searched for and found material in libraries, archives and institutes for this publication. She has brought together information stretching back over more than a century on the traces of the African Diaspora, people from Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America and the United States who lived in Berlin and have left their imprint on the history of the city. They include internationally renowned personalities, artists, musicians and scientists."
"The lack of recognition of their written cultural heritage," Paulette writes herself, "has had adverse effects on the place of [people] of African descent in German society and the development of [their] cultural identity. No basis for an inter-cultural discussion about the written contribution of [Black Germans] has been established, because the prevailing impression is that people of African descent have no written tradition in the German language and thus have achieved nothing that is noteworthy."
But Paulette has discovered a good volume of work by Africans in Germany dating as far back as the imperial and colonial periods (1871-1914). The writers include Anton Wilhelm Amo, from Axim, Ghana; Amur bin Nasur bin Amur Ilomeiri, a Tanzanian; Mary Church Terrell, an African-American; Paul Mpundo Njassam Akwa, Adolf Ngoso Din, Martin Dibobe (all Cameroonians); and letters by Mdachi bin Scharifu, a Tanzanian, and Thomas Manga Awka, a Gameroonian.
The experiences of black contemporaries in Germany during the Hitler are also described by George Padmore, (born Malcolm Nurse in Trinidad), the famous author, trade unionist and anti-colonialist who lived in Germany at the beginning of the 1930s. Between 1930-1934, Padmore was the editor of The Negro Worker, a newspaper published in Hamburg.
The experiences of Black Germans under Hilter are also described by Kwassi Bruce, a Togolese taken to Germany as a three-year-old in 1896 by his father; and William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (better known by his initials, W.E.B.), the African-American scholar, anti-colonialist and civil rights activist who lived in Berlin from 1892 to 1894 while studying philosophy at the Royal Friedrich Wilhelm University.
There but not there
All these Africans left their marks in Germany, but you will never know from looking at Germany of today. It is amazing that in spite of the long association with Africa, and the fact that Africans and people of African descent have continued to live in Germany in their hundreds of thousands over the last 50 years, Germany can still today field all-white national football, athletics and Olympic teams.
America, Britain, Canada, France, Portugal, Brazil, The Netherlands, etc, all have mixed teams, even Denmark has had to "import" a Kenyan runner (Sam Kipketer) and given him citizenship. And Germany does have today a sizeable black population! Amazingly, none of them is good enough to break into the German national teams. Incredible!
Perhaps the past has a lot to do with it. Kwassi Bruce, provides some dues in his writings.
Kwassi's father, J.C. Bruce (born Nayo Friko) was part of a 100-strong group of African contract workers brought to Berlin in 1896 from all over the German colonies in Africa to participate in the First German Colonial Exhibition held between April and November 1896.
Kwassi became a fine pianist and thrilled the crowds in Berlin, but things fell apart for him and the black population when Hitler came to power. Kwassi bequeathed to posterity a 10-page typewritten letter which he sent in August 1934 to the director of the Colonial Department of the German Foreign Office. He wrote:
"After [Hilter's] national government took power, all Africans were required to present their passports and identity documents respectively to be verified. Those who had not acquired German citizenship through a naturalisation process had their hitherto recorded German identification documents taken away and exchanged for 'alien' passports.
"Since the beginning of the national government, we Coloured, insofar as we earned our own living as workers, have all, almost without exception, lost our positions and engagements respectively. It has nor been possible for us, even after presenting proof of our origin from the former German colonies, to get new employment...
"I am a naturalised German (my passport has not yet been taken from me). During the takeover of power by the national government, I played with my orchestra and was director of the same in a good Berlin wine restaurant. My position was permanent.
"Last March, the owner of the business told me that he regretted that he would nor be able to employ me further with my orchestra because we were Coloured. On the first of April, I had to stop [work] and tried to find a new engagement. In vain.
"Wherever I asked about employment, I was told that they regretted that they would not be able to employ me because I was Coloured.
"When I referred to my heritage from the former German protectorate [of] Togo, I received the following answer: 'Yes, we don't have colonies anymore', or 'Negroes are not allowed to be employed anymore', or 'The public doesn't want to see any more Negroes, we have to rake the wishes of the guests into account'.
"Even my participation in the [First] World War on the side of the Germans as a war volunteer as well as two years as a prisoner of war couldn't convince any employer to hire me."
Kwassi was lucky, he still had his passport; others were not so lucky. One of them was James Wonja Michael. He was born in Berlin in 1916 with three other siblings, Juliana (born in 1921) and Christiana and Theodor.
James and Juliana survived the Nazi terror and are still alive. Their Cameroonian father, Theophilus Wonja Michael arrived in Berlin in 1894 and had four children with his German wife Martha (nee Wegner). The children separated when their mother and father died in 1926 and 1934 respectively.
James and Juliana went to live in France by separate routes and were reunited in the 1960s. In the summer of 1994, James told Paulette Reed-Anderson while researching Rewriting The Footnotes:
"[It] was in 1937. We were in Paris... My passport had just run out, so I went to the German consulate to have it renewed...
'What do you want', the clerk demanded.
'To renew my passport,' I answered.
'Your passport?!', he said. 'What are you, are you German?'
'Yes, here is my passport,' I answered.
"He examined it.
"Born in Berlin on 2 October 1916 and so on and so forth. Then he took my passport and went away with it. A quarter of an hour or more went by before he returned -- but without my passport. I said: 'I thought you were going to give my passport back to me'.
"He said: 'No, we are going to keep your passport. You are no longer German. Black Germans do not exist.
"Then, I was really angry. What was I supposed to do without identity documents and such? Nothing! How could I prove that I was really born in Berlin? This was the worst moment in my life..."
In the beginning
German interaction with Africa and people of African descent, according to Paulette's research, goes back four centuries. In 1681, ships from Bradenburg reached the West African coast where the Germans signed trade and protection treaties with the African rulers.
A year later, the Bradenburg-African Company, a trading society, was formed. One of its first activities was to ship African slaves to Hamburg at the behest of the Elector of Brandenburg, Prince Friedrich Wilhelm, who asked for 40 slaves to be transported to Hamburg.
In 1684, Prince Jancke (a German spelling of the Ghanaian, Yankee) travelled to Berlin to visit Prince Friedrich Wilhelm (reign 1640-1688).
The following year, a treaty was signed between Bradenburg and the Danish West-Indian Guinea Company for a trade concession and the sale of African slaves on the Caribbean island of St. Thomas.
By 1707, the Prussian military was training "Moors" as military musicians, again, at the behest of the king. Around that time and for most of the 18th century, the word "Moor" (or Mohr in German) was used to describe dark-skinned Africans. The Germans even named one street in the Berlin district of Mitte for the "Moors" -- MobrenStrasse (Moors' Street).
In 1711, the Bradenburg-Prussian Trading Company became the exclusive property of the monarch. When Friedrich Wilhelm I von Preussen succeeded the throne (reign 1713-1740), he signed a treaty with Holland in 1717 for the sale of the Prussian trading base in West Africa.
In 1729, Anton Wilhelm Amo (from Axim, in modern Ghana) who lived in Halle (Germany) published "The Rights of Moors in Europe". Seven years later (in 1736), Amo was hired as a lecturer at the Faculty of Philosophy of Halle University. They loved his work so much that in 1739, the University of Jena hired him as well to teach philosophy.
In 1794, slavery was abolished in the Prussian States by the "General Land Rights Laws". This was followed in 1836 by regular trade between the German independent cities of Bremen and Hamburg with West Africa.
Following the Berlin Revolution of 1848, and the formation of the North German Confederation in 1866, Berlin became the capital of the Confederation in 1867. Article 4 of the Confederation's constitution authorised the acquisition of overseas territories. Two years later (in 1868), a branch of the Hamburg trading company, Carl Woermann, was established in Cameroon. German colonialism was about to spring its head.
In 1871, the Second German Reich was proclaimed in Versailles, and Otto von Bismarck became chancellor until 1890. The old Article 4 of the constitution of the North German Confederation that authorised the acquisition of overseas territories was incorporated wholesale into the constitution of the Second Reich. The freedom to roam and seek overseas territories was thus guaranteed.
In 1877, the first exhibition of "Exotic Peoples" (Nubians from Sudan and Egypt) was held in Berlin. The exhibition later moved to Hamburg, Frankfurt, Dresden and London. The Africans were exhibited like animals in a zoo.
A year later, the first German "Colonial Congress" was held in Berlin, during which the exhibition of "Exotic Peoples" (Nubians as usual) was repeated in both Berlin and at the Oktoberfest in Munich.
In 1884, a battle was fought between German company owners in Togo and a group supporting the Togolese official, Lawson. The German navy kidnapped three of Lawson's comrades-in-arms and transported them to Germany where they were detained in the barracks of the Second Guard Regiment in Berlin-Spandau until June 1884.
The following month (July 1884), Germany formally proclaimed its first African colony, Togo. That same month saw a treaty between Cameroonian officials and the Hamburg trading companies, Carl Woermann and Jantzen & Thormaehlen. That treaty led to Cameroon becoming a German colony.
But it did not take long fur native dissatisfaction to surface. A full scale revolt against the Carl Woermann treaty happened in Duala in 1884. In 1902, delegations from Duala under the leadership of Rudolf Duala Manga Bell and King Dika Akwa went to Berlin to address the Woermann treaty, but they were only able to present petitions to the Colonial Office. Though they asked their representative, Ludwig Mpundo Akwa, to press on the issue in Berlin, it could not be resolved and the "petition movement continued until 1914.
The dissatisfaction simmered until August 1914 when the Germans brought a charge of high treason against Manga Bell and Ludwig Mpundo Akwa. After a secret trial without defence lawyers, Manga Bell, Mpundo Awka and 200 other Cameroonian leaders were hanged by the Germans.
Having had their way in Cameroon, the Germans pressed on to modern day Namibia where they formally proclaimed the colony of German South West Africa in August 1884.
Three months later, (in November 1884), the Germans hosted the first of the conferences that led to the European scramble for Africa.
The conference was initially called the Berlin West Africa Conference (or Congo Conference, for short). When it finally ended in February 1885, the Europeans had agreed among themselves trading treaties and the division of Africa into European zones of influence.
As soon as the conference ended, the Germans proclaimed the colony of German East Africa (now Tanzania) in February 1885. A year later, the Second German Colonial Congress was held in Berlin. The colonies were so profitable that in 1890, Berlin felt the need to establish a Colonial Department in the Foreign Office to look after the colonies.
But the people of the colonies were less than happy. In 1888, revolts against German rule started in Togo and went on intermittently until 1912. Similar revolts occurred in Tanzania from 1890 until 1898, and in Cameroon in 1891 until 1907.
In 1896, Germany held its First Colonial Exhibition in Treptower Park in Berlin during which about 100 African contract workers from all over the German colonies were brought to Berlin. This was the exhibition that Kwassi Bruce's father, J.C. Bruce, attended with his family, including the three-year-old Kwassi.
That same year, the Exhibition of Exotic Peoples was repeated in Berlin, this time with a harem from Tunisia. It was followed by yet another "Exotic Peoples" exhibition in the Hamburg Cathedral -- starring, as they billed it, "33 wild women from Dahomey".
By 1898, the German colonial policies were causing a lot of angst in Africa, such that a petition from Cameroon was presented to Kaiser Wilhelm II by the president of the African Association in London, Henry Sylvester Williams.
The Germans reacted by naming a street in the Berlin district of Wedding after Cameroon -- KamerunerStrasse. The following year, another street in Wedding was named after Togo -- TogoStrasse.
The street naming in Wedding continued unabated -- in 1903, the Guinea Coast of West Africa (then variously called "Pepper Coast", "Gold Coast", "Slave Coast") got GuineaStrasse, in 1906 it was the turn of the whole of Africa -- AfrikanischeStrasse; then in 1927 DualaStrasse after Duala, UgandaStrasse after Uganda, SambesiStrasse after River Zambezi, SenegalStrasse after Senegal and TangaStrasse after Tanganyika (now Tanzania).
But if the Germans thought the street naming in Berlin would mollify the Africans, they had not "seen nothing yet". The German East Africans revolted big time in what became known as the "Maji Maji" rebellion that went on until 1908 and saw over 200,000 people killed in the region.
Similarly, in 1904, the Hereros in Namibia revolted against the seizure of their land by the Germans. The Nama tribe later joined the revolt, and in a space of a few crazy months, the Germans massacred (or caused the death of) over 65,000 of the 80,000 Herero population. To this day, the Germans have refused to pay reparations to the Herero, even though Berlin has been paying reparations to the Jewish victims of the Hitler era.
Echoes from the past
The German attitude to the peoples of its African colonies appears to have been informed by the way Europeans perceived Africans at the time.
An article discovered by Paulette Reed-Anderson published in 1913 by the Koloniale Rundschau titled, "Africans in Europe", eloquently summed up the German government's position on the Africans.
"In our colonies," the article said, "the existing educational opportunities will be sufficient for the natives for a foreseeable time period and therefore their attendance at schools in Germany is out of the question. It is reasonable to expect that the presence of blacks at institutes of higher education in Germany would be disadvantageous."
But disadvantageous to whom? The article did not say, but nobody is fooled. Paulette tries to put it in perspective: "After the founding of the [German] empire," she says, "two economic crises burdened the German economy. The first, from 1873 to 1879, and the second from 1882 to 1886 should, among other things, be seen in connection with the transformation from an agriculturally-based economic system to one based on industrial production.
"In order to drive industrialisation forward, the German government needed access to the global markets and a connection to the European and international banking sector. The Berlin West Africa Conference [the Congo Conference that led to the scramble for Africa] should be seen in this context. From the total of 36 articles that were negotiated at the conference, all but five had to do with the regulation of trade between the contractual partners.
"The entry into European colonial politics formed a political prerequisite that allowed the German government to achieve the transformation of the society from an agricultural to an industrial nation."
Blacks in Germany
The majority of the black men in Germany at the time found employment in the entertainment industry and only a few became skilled manual workers such as shoemarkers or cooks.
The lucky ones, such as the Cameroonian, Martin Dibobe, became train drivers on what is now the Berlin subway. The women, on the other hand, were employed exclusively in the entertainment industry. By 1912, 1,800 blacks were registered as residents of Berlin alone.
Paulette tries to explain why almost all the blacks worked in the entertainment industry: "The first African slaves in Europe," she says, "were used as field workers on the plantations of the Iberian Peninsula or they were forced to work as domestic servants for the nobility. Like their counterparts in Britain, France and Holland, German nobles and wealthy merchants took Africans as serfs, domestic servants and soldiers."
This image of the African -- slave or servant -- did not go away when slavery was abolished. It was followed by the development of ideologies that were just as restrictive and inhuman as slavery itself, Paulette adds.
"Throughout Europe and the Americas," she writes, "scholars rendered their contribution to the development of prejudices and racial ideologies. In 1798 for example, the philosopher Christoph Meiners (1745-1810) from Goettingen wrote a book in which he sorted human beings into the categories of 'beautiful' and 'ugly'. Those who did not --like the Europeans -- look 'light-skinned' were sentenced to being 'ugly' and 'half-civilised'.
"When slavery was abolished in France in 1848, the philosopher, Carl Gustav Carus (1789- 1869), who was born in Leipzig, published a book with another variation on the skin colour discussion. According to Carus, the people of the earth should be divided into four races. These should be compared to a 24-hour day and differentiated according to bodily functions. He compared the white race to 'day' and the 'brain'. He compared the black race to 'night' and the 'genitals'."
In 1859, when the Englishman Charles Robert Darwin (1809-1882) published his book, "On the Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection", his theories about nature were transferred to human beings by his supporters.
This led to a new "scientific" social theory that formed, as Paulette says, "the foundation and essential justification for the injustice, exclusion and genocide that has taken place since the 19th century... Increasingly, aggressive racism overshadowed the lives of people of African descent in Europe, the Americas and elsewhere."
The 'Black Disgrace'
In 1886 when the American firm, Barber Asphalt Paving Company, won a contract to asphalt LandsbergerStrasse in the Berlin district of Mitte, the company's five black workers became the centre of attraction.
The German newspaper, Illustrierte Zeitung, reported on 12 April 1886:
"They had brought five real Negroes. Usually the black 'brethren' were stared at by crowds between apes and brightly coloured parrots as criers at the Hasenheide [a park] in front of groups of animals, tight ropes or promising but somewhat mystic 'cabinets'. One suddenly saw the Coloureds as street workers. Hundreds of curious bystanders surrounded the work site from morning until night... To have to accept these 'dark men of honour' as industrious, skilful workers was very difficult for a certain part of the Berlin population."
You can excuse the folk of 1886, but the German attitude to blacks did not change with the years. As late as 1931 when the film "Hell on Earth" was released with the African-American choreographer and artist, Louis Douglas, in a lead role, the film critic of the German newspaper, Deutsche Tageszeitung wrote:
"A Jazz Nigger from Paris teaches the soldiers of the white peoples peace! That is so dumb that it would be ridiculous in this bitterly serious time if it wasn't so embarrassingly deliberate."
This was despite the fact that during World War I, thousands of Africans in the colonies and in Germany itself had fought on the German side against the Allies. One such African soldier, Heipold Jansen, born in Cameroon in 1893, was an enlisted officer in the Prussian Army and fought throughout the First World War for the Germans.
After the War, when Germany lost its African colonies to France and Britain, many Africans participated in the struggle to win back the colonies for Germany. But that counted for nothing in the eyes of Duetsche Tageszeitung.
What seemed to trouble the Germans most about the Africans was the stationing, after World War I, of French African troops in the Rhine region of Germany and the offspring that the Africans were about to leave behind. The government of Chancellor Friedrich Ebert demanded that the African soldiers be removed from the Rhineland. The Africans were mainly Senegalese and Moroccans.
Says Paulette Reed-Anderson: "The presence of the French African troops in the Rhineland became a long running topic in German politics. The insulting expression 'Black Disgrace' ('Schwarze Schmach') was used up into the Nazi period, and had become a term that symbolised the rising racism in Germany that targeted all [people] of African descent."
Life under Hitler
When Hilter came to power in 1933, blacks in Germany were also confronted with the full force of the Nazi "Rassenpolitik" or "racial policies". The leading journal that targeted blacks was Neues Volk which was published by the Department of Population Policy and Race. It had a circulation of 140,000 at the end of 1934.
The articles from 1933 made the Nazi's attitude to blacks crystal clear. In one of them, the Neues Volk advocated the sterilisation of the offspring (the Germans called them "Rhineland Bastards") of the French African soldiers stationed in the Rhine region.
In another article, the Neues Volk wrote: "The people of the white race have thought up, invented, discovered so much, not only cars, airplanes and radios, no really all inventions and discoveries were made by the white race. The black race has lived in the world as long as the white and has not yet invented or discovered anything."
In December 1936, the Nazi government passed the "Law on the Hitler Youth" (Gesetz uber die Hitlerjugend) that decreed that all German youths be included in the Hilter Youth brigade, except black German children.
An article in the Neues Volk hinted why the black children were excluded:
"Disdained and pitied in the groups of the old local populations, thrown out of the association of the native population, they make their laborious way between the two cultures. And even when they want to he and do good, the stamp of their heritage remains stronger than all efforts to achieve a new bearable lot. Today, we know of approximately 600 bastards on the Rhine, tomorrow it will be more. Their sorrow will be multiplied through their children -- a sorrow that can never be overcome. Let this be said to open the eyes of those in whose hands it lies to prevent this suffering from increasing."
This was around the time that George Padmore was editor of The Negro Worker based in Hamburg. In an editorial in its April-May 1933 issue, The Negro Worker warned:
"Most Negroes in Europe and America as well as in the colonies do nor yet frilly realise that fascism is the greatest danger which confronts nor only the white worker, but is the most hostile movement against the Negro race."
Soon after this warning, the Nazi organ, Nationalsozialistiche Monatshefte thundered:
"In each Negro, even in one of the kindest disposition, is the latent brute and primitive man who can be tamed neither by centuries of slavery, nor by an external varnish of civilisation.
"All assimilation, all education is bound to fail on account of the racial inborn features of the blood. One can, therefore, understand why in the Southern States of America, sheer necessity compels the white race to act in an abhorent and perhaps even cruel manner against the Negroes. And of course, most of the Negroes that are lynched do not merit any regret."
From its base in Hamburg, The Negro Worker responded:
"This is the sum total of the philosophy of the new 'saviours' of Germany. The most recent attacks of the fascists upon Negroes in Germany occurred a few weeks ago. Shortly after the infamous Captain Goering, the right hand man of Hitler, assumed office, he ordered his men to round up all Negroes and deport them from Germany. Among the first ones to be arrested was Comrade Padmore... [He] was dragged out of his bed by the Nazi police and imprisoned for about two weeks, during which time the Nazi raided the offices of the Negro workers' Union and destroyed all their property. Padmore was afterwards deported."
That was in 1933. By 1939, black entertainers had been banned from appearing in public and had to go "underground" to find work (strangely) in the German film studios where they were needed for the production of colonial propaganda films.
After the defeat of Hitler, Germany's black population started to slowly drift back. In the last 40 years, African immigrants have become even more visible in the country.
In 1999, 300,600 Africans were registered as living in Germany. Last year, 15,061 Africans were registered as residents of Berlin alone (3.4% of the capital's population).
These figures exclude children from mixed marriages (African/German, or African-American/German) because German nationality is passed on by blood (ie, if the mother is German, the child is German). Between 1945 and 1958, over 8,000 mixed race children (father usually African-American soldier, mother German) were born in what was then West Germany.
In reality, there are no statistics on black Germans as such, as anyone who receives naturalisation is counted as German (race is not a category used for the statistics because of the bad experience of the Nazis using the census information of that era for their "non-Aryan" cleansing).
That said, the anti-black xenophobia in Germany has not gone away. Blacks are attacked and killed at will by neo-Nazi youths, especially in the former East Germany.
Most ordinary Germans are outraged by this state of affairs. Last year, over 100,000 Germans, including Chancellor Gerhard Schroder, marched in Berlin to protest against the rising tide of racism against blacks and other foreigners in the country. The march followed the killing of an Angolan in a Berlin park by neo-Nazi youths.
Like Britain, France and The Netherlands, the German government might publicly show its unhappiness at the anti-black attacks, but it rakes more than just mere words to rid the system of institutional racism.
Again, as in Britain where the Home Office (which deals with immigrants) admitted last year that it "is institutionally racist" and promised to work hard to make amends, Germany will have to do more to uproot institutional racism in the country (especially against blacks).
For a start, how about the national football, athletics and Olympic reams? Black Germans do nor exist indeed!
(Rewriting The Footnotes -- Berlin and the African Diaspora, by Paulette Reed-Anderson is published in simultaneous English and German translation by Die Auslaenderbeauftragte des Senats (The Commissioner for Foreigners' Affairs), PotsdamerStrasse 65, 10785 Berlin. Tel (49 30) 9017 2351 or 9017 2381 Fax: (49 30) 262 5407.
RELATED ARTICLES: Great Africans (some) in Germany before and during the Hilter era
Gustav Sabrac el Cher (photo right), born in 1867 in Germany, attended public school, trained in music from 1893 to 1895 at the Royal University for Musical Arts, became a Prussian soldier and from 1895 to 1909 was music director of the Royal Prussian Infantry Regiment No. 1 music corps in Koenigsberg (today's Kaliningrad in Russia).
Kwassi Bruce (born in Togo in 1893, brought to Berlin in 1896 as a three-year-old by his father). Became a fine pianist, was the head of the Deutsche Afrika Schau (German Africa Show) which was supported financially by the German Foreign Office.
Abdallah Adam (1884-1912), born in Kano, Nigeria, was language assistant (Haussa and Fui) at the College for Oriental Languages of the Friedrich-Wilhelms University in Berlin between 1910 and 1912. Died in Berlin's Charite Hospital in 1912.
Charles M'bonga Egiomue (born 1903 in Berlin, died 1941 in the French military prison in St Etienne), was a performer, stage name Charles Painter. His two sons born in Berlin, Werner Egiomue (1925) and Helmut Egiomue (1922) are the two boys on the front cover of this issue of New African. The photo was taken in 1927 in Berlin.
Ernest Everett Just (1883-1941), African-American natural scientist and cell biologist, lived in Berlin in 1930 and 1931 as a guest professor at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Biology.
Josef Mambo (born 1885 in Tanzania), sergeant in the Prussian Infantry Regiment until 1919, fought in World War 1, and after 1920 became a performer employed by the Deutsche Afrika Schau.
Ludwig P.H. Mpundo Njassam Akwa (1870-1914), born in Cameroon, was representative of the Cameroonians in Germany, writer of petitions to the German imperial government. The son of King Dika Mpundo Akwa of Bonambela in Cameroon, Njassam (photo right) lived in Germany from the age of nine on the estate of Count Graf Hans Praschma (1867-1935) who was a member of the Catholic Centre Party, largest party in the German parliament until 1918. The Praschma estate was located in Oberschlesien in present day Poland.
Njassam attended school in Altona near Hamburg through to secondary school and took a professional merchant training in Kiel. From 1891 to 1893, he worked as the imperial interpreter in Cameroon. In 1912, he was deported from Germany. In August 1914, he and some 200 other rebellious leaders and officials of Cameroon were executed by the German colonial government.
Before Njassams death, his father King Akwa had been sentenced to a long prison sentence by the Germans for protesting against the seizure of his land. Njassam wrote a long petition on his father's behalf to the German Imperial Chancellor in 1906.
Adolf Ngoso Din (born in Cameroon) was the secretary to the Cameroonian leader, Rudolf Duala Manga Bell. He travelled to Berlin in February 1914 as an official representative to negotiate the questions of treaties and land seizures in Duala with the Colonial Office. He was deported in May 1914 and in August of that year, was among the 200 Cameroonians executed by the Germans. In the petition to the German government, written in Berlin on 22 February 1914, Ngoso Din had told the Germans:
"The hard and cruel measures taken by the [German colonial] government in Duala in the implementation of the dispossessions has so outraged the entire population that they were forced to carry out a war using knives... [The people) are already outraged that their leaders, including Ludwig Mpondo Akwa, have been banned indefinitely due to this dispossession and are unable to return to their country until the dispossession is completed. It is a cause for concern, that one's patience may come to an end. If one's house is demolished or burned, one might grab a knife and stab a European to death. In this case, they would not ask what the reason was but rather the colonial army, ordinary police, police troops (almost every European has weapons and amunition) will be ready to shoot all Duala citizens because they are resisting and have killed a European... In all honesty, if the Duala people were given enough weapons and ammunition, they would immediately go to war, so great is their outrage."
Thomas Manga Akwa (born in Duala, Cameroon, in 1891), trained as mechanical engineer, lived in Berlin, was signatory to the 32-point petition to the Weimar National Assembly in 1919, protesting and condemning the "offensive measures and behaviour of the German colonial government" in Cameroon.
Ten years on, (on 15 June 1929), Manga Akwa wrote a letter to the Society for Native Studies under the German Foreign Office, asking for permanent employment because he had lost his job. He wrote:
"I have been living in Germany since 1919 and learned trades of mechanical engineer, mechanic and chauffeur here. Until the war [World War I] broke out, I worked independently in all munitions factories. Contact to my home country, Cameroon, was blocked and I was unable to return to my native country until after the war, in 1921. [Cameroon] was however already in the hands of the French government.
"However, as I heard that in my native country the fundamental attitude still tended towards the Germans, I made several speeches to the African people as the son of their prince in the interests of the first power Germany [regarding] its overseas territory, Cameroon. These speeches were heard with great enthusiasm by the people.
"The French government, however, regarded me as a German spy and wanted to execute me. [A day to the execution], however, I was saved by the population and helped to return to Germany. Through my affinity to Germany, I lost my right of domicile [in Cameroon, under the French]. And not only that but also all contact to my relatives who have helped me out of this unfavourable situation. The French government has forbidden it and all letters concerning me are opened.
"I am married and have a nine-year-old child and lost my permanent job in November 1928. I have had temporary jobs now and then. However, they are not sufficient for me to feed myself and my family. The rent alone for the furnished apartment that we live in is DM58.00 per month. As a result of this situation, I have gotten into dire straits , and as I have also used up the last of my savings in this time, I am barely able to survive with my family.
"I request, therefore, most humbly that I be granted monthly support so that I can pay my rent and have something to live on. I would appreciate it very much if you could arrange a permanent position in the government or its associated offices in my profession.
"I am turning to the German government because I am a German citizen and therefore have no possibility to obtain help from elsewhere... As I do not have a penny, I humbly request you to provide me with your help, or even better, to give me a position..."
Akwa's pleas were heard, and he, like many other Africans from the former German colonies, received financial assistance from the German Society for Native Studies at the behest of the Colonial Department of the Foreign Office.
Martin-Paul Samba (1875-1914, born Mebenga M'Ebono in Cameroon), had military training in Germany, later became lieutenant and captain in the German army. Was one of the 200 Cameroonians executed by the Germans in 1914.
Marian Anderson (1902-1933), African-American born in Chicago, USA, was an opera singer, lived in Berlin in the early 1930s.
M'toro bin M'wengi Bakari (born German East Africa), Swahili language assistant at the College for Oriental Languages, Friedrich-Wilhelms University in Berlin from 1900 to 1903, author of the book, Customs and Traditions of the Swahili.
Joseph Ekwe Bile (born 1892 in Cameroon), architect in Berlin, signed the 1919 petition to the Weimar National Assembly, was member of the board of directors of the German section of the League for the Defence of the Negro Race founded in 1929. Later went to live in France in 1933.
Gladys May Casely Hayford, (1904-1950, photo right) dancer from Sierra Leone, lived in Berlin during the end of the l920s and participated in the "International Conference for the African Child" in Geneva in 1931.
Mary Church Terrel (1863-1954), African-American feminist and civil rights activist, lived in Berlin from 1889 and 1890. After receiving a Masters degree at Oberlin College in Ohio, USA, travelled throughout Europe from 1888 and 1890, and wrote on her life in Berlin in her autobiography, A Coloured Woman in a White World. Attended the International Women's Congress held in Berlin in 1904. Was the only black delegate, and the only participant to deliver her speech in three tongues: German, French and English.
Martin Dibobe (born 1876 in Cameroon), lived in Berlin, was representative of the Cameroonians in Germany, and between 1906 and 1920 worked for the Berlin Public Transport Company as one of the first train drivers on the subway Line One. Wrote Cameroon's famous 32-point petition, dated 27 June 1919, to the Wiemar National Assembly.
In the covering letter (dated 9 June 1919) accompanying the petition, Dibobe said: "I, with all my fellow countrymen listed below, most strongly protest against the rape of the colonies. We request that the commendable German government with all officials in Cameroon recognise the Treaty of 1884 which guarantees our independence...
"We swear our unswerving allegiance to the Socialist Republic and will make every exertion to live in harmony with the new German government if the Treaty of 1884 is fulfilled by the said government. I request that this letter be published in the newspapers so that the population knows that we are loyal to the Republic."
Point 2 of the petition asked for the "German Code of Civil Law to be introduced to Africa with the same effect as in Germany". Point 3: "Corporal punishment in the colonies be abolished; as a result the people first become bitter and then indifferent; punishment be carried out according to German penal laws."
Point 6: "The compulsory supply of local inhabitants as workers to large [German] companies must be stopped completely. Everyone should be able to till his land independently, as the people like to work." Point 10: "The people demand free trade, fishing and hunting."
Point 12: "The customs and traditions of the people must be preserved." Point 14: "Compulsory school attendance should be introduced in Cameroon as it already exists in Germany. A comprehensive school system should be introduced, and the children of the people be allowed to study at universities or colleges."
Point 16: "We do not want any more militarism in our native country..." Point 17: "Marriages between people from Cameroon and whites are legal. We want to take our wives and children to our native country."
Point 20: "We demand, as we are Germans, equal status on public transport. We are always described as foreigners. In the English colonies, equality has already been introduced."
Point 24: "We demand that wages be set so that a man can feed his family. We demand the participation in decision making as it is to be introduced in Germany."
Point 25: "We demand further that abuse and insults during work hours, as has otherwise been the order of the day, be done away with. The people will no longer take this, but rather resist. They demand to be treated with dignity."
Point 31: "We demand from the government a permanent representative of our race in [the German] parliament, who we can entrust fully and completely with our interests and wishes, who understands us and according to our convictions knov/s best how to protect and administer the well-being and woes of our native country. We elect for this office the Duala, Martin Dibobe, Danzigerstrasse 98, who is known to us as judicious and sensible."
Mandenga Diek (born 1871 in Cameroon, died 1943 in Danzig (today the city of Gdansk in Poland). Went first to Germany in 1891 with his brother Anjo, and was signatory to the 919 petition to the Weimar National Assembly. Had two daughters in Berlin, Erika Ngambi a Diek and Doris Diek.
Heipold Jansen (born 1893 in Cameroon), sergeant in the Prussian army, fought in World War I, member of the "Freikorps", part in the suppression of the Spartakus Rebellion in Berlin in March 1919, signed the petition to the Wiemar National Assembly.
William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (better known as W.E.B du Bois (photo right), African-American scholar, civil rights activist and anti-colonialist, born 1868 in USA, died and buried in Ghana 1963. Lived in Berlin 1892-1894 as a philosophy student of the Friedrich-Wilhems University. In his book, "The Block Flame, A Trilogy", one of the numerous books to his name, Du Bois wrote about another visit to Berlin in 1936 during the days of Hilter.
The visit coincided with the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin and Du Bois tells how he was "thrilled to witness so fine an example of human equality, as dark figures threaded the stadium and every race and nation bore its banners aloft.
"It happened that American Negro athletes were unusually prominent. [Jesse] Owens, little and lithe, won the 100 and 200 meter races and the broad jump over world competition. The stadium thundered with applause. Woodruff, tall, thin and brilliant bronze, won the 800 meter run; and big, black Johnson soared to victory in the high jump.
"And then Hilter, who had paraded and poured praise on the white victors, failed to put in an appearance. It was petty pout, but it spoiled [my] feeling of triumph, just as it shammed many Germans."
George Padmore (born in Trinidad as Malcolm Nurse 1902, died in London 1959), famous trade unionist, author, anti-colonialist and editor of the Hamburg-based newspaper, The Negro Worker. Deported by the Nazis in 1934.
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|Date:||May 1, 2001|
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