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Title: Afro-Germans  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Culture of Germany, German cuisine, Immigration to Germany, Japanese community of Düsseldorf, Mexicans in Germany
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Total population
Up to 817,150 estimated (2010)[1]
Regions with significant populations
Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Munich, Cologne
German, Niger–Congo languages, Nilo-Saharan languages

Afro-Germans (German: Afrodeutsche)[2] or Black Germans are an ethnic group which exists in certain parts of the Federal Republic of Germany such as Hamburg, Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, and Cologne and in a variety of smaller settlements across Germany. Afro-Germans are as well indistinguishably defined as German citizens of Black African descent.

Cities such as Hamburg and Berlin, centers of occupation forces following World War II and more recent immigration, have substantial Afro-German communities, with a relatively high percentage of ethnically mixed and multiracial families. With modern trade and migration, communities such as Frankfurt, Munich, and Cologne have an increasing number of Afro-Germans. As of 2005, there were approximately 500,000 Afro-Germans in a nation of 80 million. This number is difficult to estimate because the German census does not use race as a category, following the genocide committed during World War II under the "German racial ideology".[3] Up to 70,000 (2% of the population) people of Afro-German origin live in Berlin.[4]


African and German interaction 1600 to late 1800s

Inside Brandenburger Gold Coast. View in February 1884.

The first Africans in Germany were brought as household servants around the 17th century. [5] During the 1720s, Ghana-born Anton Wilhelm Amo was sponsored by a German duke to become the first African to attend a European university; after completing his studies, he taught and wrote in philosophy. Later, Africans were brought as slaves from the western coast of Africa where a number of German estates were established, primarily on the Gold Coast. After King Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia sold his Ghana Groß Friedrichsburg estates in Africa in 1717, from which up to 30,000 slaves had been sold to the Dutch East India Company, the new owners were bound by contract to "send 12 negro boys, six of them decorated with golden chains," to the king. The enslaved children were brought to Potsdam and Berlin.[6]

Africans and German interaction between 1884 and 1945

Wandermenagerie – Paul Friedrich Meyerheim: In der Tierbude (In the menagerie), Berlin, 1894

At the 1884 Berlin Congo conference, attended by all major powers of the day, European states divided Africa into areas of influence which they would control. Germany controlled colonies in the African Great Lakes region and West Africa, from which numerous Africans migrated to Germany for the first time. Germany appointed indigenous specialists for the colonial administration and economy, and many young Africans went to Germany to be educated. Some received higher education at German schools and universities, but the majority were trained at mission training and colonial training centers as officers or domestic mission teachers. Africans frequently served as interpreters for African languages at German-Africa research centers, and with the colonial administration. Others migrated to Germany as former members of the German protection troops, the Askari.

Interracial couples in the colonies were subjected to strong pressure in a campaign against miscegenation, which included invalidation of marriages, declaring the mixed-race children illegitimate, and stripping them of German citizenship.[7] During extermination of the Nama people in 1907 by Germany, the German director for colonial affairs, Bernhard Dernburg, stated that "some native tribes, just like some animals, must be destroyed".[8]

Afro-German Ignatius Fortuna († 1789), Kammermohr
German colonial adventurer Ernst Henrici, c. 1880
Afro-German Askari, c. 1914

Weimar Republic

Map of Africa in 1914 with regions colonized by Germany shown in yellow.

In the course of World War I, the Belgians, British and French took control of Germany's colonies in Africa. The situation for the African colonials in Germany changed in various ways. For example, Africans who possessed a colonial German identification card had a status entitling them to treatment as "members of the former protectorates". After the Treaty of Versailles (1919), the Africans were encouraged to become citizens of their respective mandate countries, but most preferred to stay where they were. In numerous petitions (well documented for German Togoland by P. Sebald and for Cameroon by A. Rüger), they tried to inform the German public about the conditions in the colonies, and continued to request German help and support.

Africans founded the bilingual periodical that was published in

Many of the Afro-Germans endured the Great Depression in Germany without being able to gain unemployment compensation, as this depended on German citizenship. Some Afro-Germans were supported through a small budget from the German Foreign Office.

Nazi Germany

Afro-German soldier of the Nazi Germany - Free Arabian Legion in September 1943.

The conditions for Afro-Germans in Germany grew worse during the Nazi period. Naturalized Afro-Germans lost their passports. Working conditions and travel were made extremely difficult for Afro-German musicians, variety, circus or film professionals. Based on racist propaganda, employers were unable to retain or hire Afro-German employees.

The Nazis speculated about gaining the support of Afro-Germans from former German colonies for pro-German colonial propaganda. They planned an "African colonial empire under German predominance". The legislation for a planned, apartheid-like system already existed in design in 1940, including laws for slaves and an Afro-German passport design. Nazi Germany never approached the realization of its colonial dreams.

Afro-Germans in Germany were socially isolated and forbidden to have sexual relations and marriages with Aryans by the racial laws.[9][10] In continued discrimination directed at the so-called Rhineland bastards, Nazi officials subjected some 500 Afro-German children in the Rhineland to forced sterilization.[11] Blacks were placed at the bottom of the racial scale of non-Aryans along with Jews and Gypsies.[12] The Nazis originally sought to rid the German state of Jews and Romani by means of emigration, while Afro-Germans were to be segregated and eventually exterminated through compulsory sterilization.[12]

For an autobiography of an Afro-German in Germany under Nazi rule see Hans Massaquoi's book Destined to Witness.

Afro-Germans in Germany since 1945

The end of World War II brought Allied occupation forces into Germany. United States, British and French forces included numerous soldiers of African American, Afro-Caribbean or African descent, and some of them fathered children with ethnic German women. At the time, the armed forces and Germany generally had non-fraternization rules and discouraged interracial marriages. Most single ethnic German mothers kept their "brown babies", but thousands were adopted by American families and grew up in the United States. Often they did not learn their full ancestry until reaching adulthood.

Until the end of the Cold War, the United States kept more than 100,000 U.S. soldiers stationed on German soil. These men established their lives in Germany. They often brought families with them or founded new ones with ethnic German wives and children. The federal government of West Germany pursued a policy of isolating or removing from Germany those children that it described as "mixed-race negro children".[13]

Cities with considerable population of Afro-German descent include the following:[14][15][16]
City Number
Berlin 2% (70,000)
Hamburg 3% (54,000)
Frankfurt 2% (14,000)
Munich 1% (14,000)
Dortmund 2% (12,000)
Cologne 1% (11,000)
Bremen 1.5% (9,000)
Stuttgart 1.3% (8,000)


Since 1981, Germany has had immigration from African states, mostly from Nigeria and Ghana, who were seeking work. Some of the Ghanaians also came to study in German universities.

For more information see Immigration to Germany.

Afro-Germans in literature

Coat of arms of Coburg, 1493, depicting Saint Maurice

Notable Afro-Germans in modern Germany

Politics and social life

Zeca Schall, Afro-German politician

Art, culture, and music

The cultural life of Afro-Germans has great variety and complexity. With the emergence of MTV and Viva, the popularity of American pop culture promoted Afro-German representation in German media and culture.

Afro-German musicians include:


Logo of SFD - Schwarze Filmschaffende in Deutschland

The [2]

Afro-Germans in film include:



  1. ^ Smith, David G. (2008-06-05). "German Newspaper Slammed for Racist Cover". Spiegel Online. Retrieved 2008-06-18. 
  2. ^ a b Wolf, Joerg (2007-02-23). "Black History Month in Germany". Atlantic Review. Retrieved 2009-10-20. 
  3. ^ Mazon, Patricia (2005). Not So Plain as Black and White: Afro-German Culture and History, 1890–2000. Rochester: University of Rochester Press. pp. 2–3.  
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Black Germans", in Prem Poddar, Rajeev Patke and Lars Jensen, Historical Companion to Postcolonial Literatures--Continental Europe and Its Colonies, Edinburgh University Press, 2008
  6. ^ Prem Poddar, Rajeev Patke and Lars Jensen, Historical Companion to Postcolonial Literatures--Continental Europe and Its Colonies, Edinburgh University Press, 2008, page 257
  7. ^ Not So Plain as Black and White: Afro-German Culture and History, 1890–2000, Patricia M. Mazón, Reinhild Steingröver, page 18
  8. ^ Ben Kiernan, Blood and Soil: Modern Genocide 1500–2000, p. 417
  9. ^
  10. ^ S. H. Milton (2001). Robert Gellately and Nathan Stoltzfus, ed. Social Outsiders in Nazi Germany. Princeton University Press. pp. 216, 231.  
  11. ^ Evans, Richard J. (2005). The Third Reich in Power. Penguin. pp. 526–8.  
  12. ^ a b Simone Gigliotti, Berel Lang. The Holocaust: a reader. Malden, Massachusetts, USA; Oxford, England, UK; Carlton, Victoria, Australia: Blackwell Publishing, 2005. Pp. 14.
  13. ^ Women in German Yearbook 2005: Feminist Studies in German Literature & Culture, Marjorie Gelus, Helga W. Kraft page 69
  14. ^ Einwohnerregisterstatistik Berlin (in German).
  15. ^
  16. ^ Zahlen und Fakten.

Further reading

Ayim, May, Katharina Oguntoye, and Dagmar Schultz. Showing Our Colors: Afro-German Women Speak Out (1986). Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1992.

Campt, Tina. Other Germans Black Germans and the Politics of Race, Gender, and Memory in the Third Reich. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 2004.

El-Tayeb, Fatima. European Others: Queering Ethnicity in Postnational Europe. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2011.

Hine, Darlene Clark, Trica Danielle Keaton, and Stephen Small, eds. Black Europe and the African Diaspora. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009.

American Institute for Contemporary German Studies. Who Is a German?: Historical and Modern Perspectives on Africans in Germany. Ed. Leroy Hopkins. Washington, D.C: American Institute for Contemporary German Studies, the Johns Hopkins University, 1999.

Lemke Muniz de Faria, Yara-Colette. "'Germany's "Brown Babies" Must Be Helped! Will You?': U.S. Adoption Plans for Afro-German Children, 1950–1955." Callaloo 26.2 (2003): 342–362.

Mazón, Patricia M., and Reinhild Steingröver, eds. Not so Plain as Black and White: Afro-German Culture and History, 1890–2000. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2005.

Weheliye, Alexander G. Phonographies: Grooves in Sonic Afro-Modernity. Duke University Press, 2005.

External links

  • Black German Heritage and Research Association
  • Black German Cultural Society Inc
  • African Union Diaspora Committee Deutschland Zentralrat der Afrikanischen Diaspora Deutschland mit Mandat der Afrikanischen Union
  • May Ayim Award - The 1st Black German International Literature Award
  • Initiative Schwarze Menschen in Deutschland
  • African Diaspora in Germany (German)
  • cyberNomads - The Black German Databank Network and Media Channel Our Knowledge Resource on the Net
  • SFD – Schwarze Filmschaffende in Deutschland
  • United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Bibliography
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