|Up to 817,150 estimated (2010)|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Munich, Cologne|
|German, Niger–Congo languages, Nilo-Saharan languages|
Cities such as Hamburg and Berlin, centers of occupation forces following World War II and more recent immigration, have substantial Black 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[update], 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." Up to 70,000 (2% of the population) people of Black African origin live in Berlin.
The first Africans in Germany proper were brought as slaves. 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. Individual Africans had earlier been brought to Germany to work as household servants at around 17th century. 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.
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. 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".
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 German and Duala: Elolombe ya Cameroon (Sun of Cameroon). A political group of Africans established the German branch of a Paris-based human-rights organization: "the German section of the League to the Defense of the Negro Race".
Many of the Africans endured the Great Depression in Germany without being able to gain unemployment compensation, as this depended on German citizenship. Some Africans were supported through a small budget from the German Foreign Office.
The conditions for Africans in Germany grew worse during the Nazi period. Naturalized Afro-Germans lost their passports. Working conditions and travel were made extremely difficult for Black musicians, variety, circus or film professionals. Based on racist propaganda, employers were unable to retain or hire black employees.
The Nazis speculated about gaining the support of Africans 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 African passport design. Nazi Germany never approached the realization of its colonial dreams.
Africans in Germany were socially isolated and forbidden to have sexual relations and marriages with Aryans by the racial laws. In continued discrimination directed at the so-called Rhineland bastards, Nazi officials subjected some 500 Afro-German children in the Rhineland to forced sterilization. Blacks were placed at the bottom of the racial scale of non-Aryans along with Jews and Gypsies. The Nazis originally sought to rid the German state of Jews and Romani by means of emigration, while blacks were to be segregated and eventually exterminated through compulsory sterilization.
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 German women. At the time, the armed forces and Germany generally had non-fraternization rules and discouraged interracial marriages. Most single 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 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".
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.
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:
The SFD - Schwarze Filmschaffende in Deutschland (Black Artists in German Film, literally Black Filmmakers in Germany) is a professional association based in Berlin for directors, producers, screenwriters, and actors who are Afro-Germans or of Black African origin and living in Germany. They have organized the "New Perspectives" series at the Berlinale film festival.
Afro-Germans in film include:
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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.