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Total population
Regions with significant populations
Hamburg, Frankfurt, Darmstadt, Munich, Bremen, Berlin, Cologne, Mainz

Afro-Germans (German: Afrodeutsche)[1] or Black Germans (German: schwarze Deutsche) are Germans of Sub-Saharan African descent.

Cities such as Hamburg and Frankfurt, which were formerly centres of occupation forces following World War II and more recent immigration, have substantial Afro-German communities. With modern trade and migration, communities such as Frankfurt, Berlin, Munich, and Cologne have an increasing number of Afro-Germans. As of 2020, in a country with a population of 83,000,000 people, there were an estimated 1,000,000 Afro-Germans.[a]


African-German interaction from 1600 to late 1800s[edit]

African in a Hamburg Schembartlauf, c. 1600

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.[5] 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 people 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[edit]

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.

The Afrikanisches Viertel in Berlin is also a legacy of the colonial period, with a number of streets and squares named after countries and locations tied to the German colonial empire. It is now home to a substantial portion of Berlin's residents of African heritage.

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
Inside Brandenburger Gold Coast, February 1884

Weimar Republic[edit]

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 German and Duala: Elolombe ya Cameroon (Sun of Cameroon). A political group of Black Germans established the German branch of the Paris-based human-rights organization, Ligue de défense de la race nègre (Eng: League for the Defense of the Negro Race) as the Liga zur Verteidigung der Negerrasse, on September 17, 1929.[9]

Nazi Germany[edit]

Young Rhinelander who was classified as a bastard and hereditarily unfit under the Nazi regime

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. Because of Nazi policies, employers were unable to retain or hire Afro-German employees.[10][11]

Afro-Germans in Germany were socially isolated and forbidden to have sexual relations and marriages with Aryans by the Nuremberg Laws.[12][13] In continued discrimination directed at the so-called Rhineland bastards, Nazi officials subjected some 500 Afro-German children in the Rhineland to forced sterilization.[14] Afro-Germans were considered "enemies of the race-based state", along with Jews and Roma.[15] The Nazis originally sought to rid the German state of Jews and Romani by means of deportation (and later extermination), while Afro-Germans were to be segregated and eventually exterminated through compulsory sterilization.[15]

Some Black Germans who lived through this period later wrote about their experiences. In 1999 Hans Massaquoi published Destined to Witness about his life in Germany under Nazi rule, and in 2013 Theodor Wonja Michael, who was also the main witness in the documentary film Pages in the Factory of Dreams, published his autobiography, Deutsch Sein Und Schwarz Dazu.[16][17]

Since 1945[edit]

Steffi Jones, President of the Organizing Committee of the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup and head coach of the Germany women's national football team from 2016 to 2018

The end of World War II brought Allied occupation forces into Germany. American, 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, these armed forces generally maintained non-fraternization rules and discouraged civilian-soldier marriages. Around 8,000 of these biracial Afro German children were born immediately after the war, making up about 1% of all births in ethnically homogeneous West Germany in 1945. "[18] 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".[19]

Audre Lorde, Black American writer and activist, spent the years from 1984 to 1992 teaching at the Free University of Berlin. During her time in Germany, often called "The Berlin Years," she helped push the coining of the term "Afro-German" into a movement that addressed the intersectionality of race, gender, and sexual orientation. She encouraged Black German women such as May Ayim and Ika Hügel-Marshall to write and publish poems and autobiographies as a means of gaining visibility. She pursued intersectional global feminism and acted as an advocate for that movement in Germany.


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

Below are the largest (Sub-Saharan) African groups in Germany.

Country of birth Immigrants in Germany (2021 Census)
 Nigeria 83,000
 Eritrea 75,000
 Ghana 66,000
 Cameroon 41,000
 South Africa 34,000
 Somalia 30,000
 Ethiopia 27,000
 Kenya 22,000
 Togo 20,000
 Gambia 16,000
 Angola 15,000
 Guinea 17,000
 Senegal 15,000
 Congo-Kinshasa 14,000
 Congo-Brazzaville 10,000
 Uganda 6,500
 Ivory Coast 6,000
 Sudan 5,000
 Rwanda 5,000
 Sierra Leone 4,000
 Tanzania 4,100
 Mali 4,000
 Benin 3,000
 Liberia 2,000
 Burkina Faso 2,100
 Mozambique 2,100
 Burundi 1,000
 Zambia 1,000

Afro-Germans in literature[edit]

Coat of arms of Coburg, 1493, depicting Saint Maurice
  • Edugyan, Esi (2011). Half Blood Blues. Serpent's Tail. p. 343. Novel about a multiracial jazz group in Nazi Germany. The band's young trumpeter is a Rhineland Bastard who eventually is taken by the Nazis, while other members of the band are African Americans.
  • Jones, Gayl (1998). The Healing. Boston: Beacon Press. ISBN 978-0-8070-6314-9. Novel about a faith healer and rock band manager, featuring an Afro-German character, Josef Ehelich von Fremd, an affluent fellow who works in arbitrage and owns fine racehorses.
  • Massaquoi, Hans J. (1999). Destined to Witness: Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany. W. Morrow. ISBN 978-0060959616. An autobiography by Hans J. Massaquoi, born in Hamburg, Germany, to a German mother and a Liberian father of Vai ethnicity, the grandson of Momulu Massaquoi.
  • Ika Hügel-Marshall. (2008) Marshall wrote an autobiography "Daheim unterwegs: Ein deutsches Leben", the English translation of which is entitled "Invisible Woman: Growing up Black in Germany". She details her life experiences growing up as an "occupation baby" and the struggle to find her identity as she grows up. Marshall details how the society she grew up in taught her to hate her complexion and how meeting her father, a black man, instilled a renewed pride in her heritage. The autobiography culminates in the struggle to find information on her father in the United States and finally getting to meet her American family.
  • Iljoma Mangold. (2017) Mangold wrote an autobiography "Das deutsche Krokodil", the English translation of which is entitled "The German Crocodile: A literary memoir" (2021), about growing up in Germany in the 1970s.

Afro-German political groups[edit]

Initiative of Black People (Initiative Schwarzer Deutscher)[edit]

  • This initiative created a political community that offers support for black people in Germany. Its main goals are to give people a chance to have their voices heard by each other and by those who do not share the same experiences. In the space provided by ISD gatherings, Afro-Germans are able to connect with people who might be in similar situations and who can offer them support.
  • Teachings from the ISD emphasise the role of history in understanding current politics. This is because of the belief that Germany has committed numerous atrocities in the past (notably in South-West Africa), but has no intentions of paying reparations to communities that still suffer today. The ISD notes that the importance of paying these reparations are for the structural changes made to a broken, discriminatory system.
  • The ISD combats discrimination in Germany through active support, campaigning through the media, and outreach to the government.

Notable Afro-Germans in modern Germany[edit]

Aminata Touré, minister in the state government of Schleswig-Holstein.

Politics and social life[edit]

Art, culture and music[edit]

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.

May Ayim (1960-1996), was an Afro-German poet, educator and activist. She was a co-editor of the book Farbe bekennen,[21] whose English translation was published as Showing Our Colors: Afro-German Women Speak Out.

Afro-German musicians include:

Film and television[edit]

Logo of SFD - Schwarze Filmschaffende in Deutschland
Logo of SFD - Schwarze Filmschaffende in Deutschland

The SFD - Schwarze Filmschaffende in Deutschland (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.[1]

Afro-Germans in film and television include:


See also[edit]


  1. ^ The German census does not use race as a category.[2] The number of persons "having an extended migrant background" (mit Migrationshintergrund im weiteren Sinn, meaning having at least one grandparent born outside Germany), is given as 529,000.[3] The Initiative Schwarzer Deutscher ("Black German Initiative") estimates the total of Black Germans to be about 1,000,000 persons.[4]


  1. ^ a b Wolf, Joerg (2007-02-23). "Black History Month in Germany". Atlantic Review. Archived from the original on 2011-07-18. Retrieved 2009-10-20.
  2. ^ Mazon, Patricia (2005). Not So Plain as Black and White: Afro-German Culture and History, 1890–2000. Rochester: University of Rochester Press. p. 3. ISBN 1-58046-183-2.
  3. ^ "Bevölkerung in Privathaushalten nach Migrationshintergrund im weiteren Sinn nach Geburtsstaat in Staatengruppen". Statistisches Bundesamt.
  4. ^ "Zu Besuch in Neger und Mohrenkirch: Können Ortsnamen rassistisch sein?". 2020-12-30. Rund eine Million schwarzer Menschen leben laut ISD hierzulande.
  5. ^ Lewis, Dwight (8 February 2018). "Anton Wilhelm Amo: The African Philosopher in 18th Europe". Blog of the APA. Retrieved 24 December 2023.
  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, p. 18.
  8. ^ Ben Kiernan, Blood and Soil: Modern Genocide 1500–2000, p. 417.
  9. ^ Robbie Aitken (October 2008), "From Cameroon to Germany and Back via Moscow and Paris: The Political Career of Joseph Bilé (1892–1959), Performer, "Negerarbeiter" and Comintern Activist", Journal of Contemporary History, vol. 43, no. 4, pp. 597–616, doi:10.1177/0022009408095417, ISSN 0022-0094, S2CID 144721513
  10. ^ Rosenhaft, Eve (January 28, 2016). "What happened to black Germans under the Nazis". The Independent.
  11. ^ Swift, Jaimee A. (April 18, 2017). "The Erasure of People of African Descent in Nazi Germany". AAIHS.
  12. ^ "The Nuremberg Race Laws". United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Archived from the original on 2010-01-27.
  13. ^ S. H. Milton (2001). Robert Gellately; Nathan Stoltzfus (eds.). Social Outsiders in Nazi Germany. Princeton University Press. pp. 216, 231. ISBN 9780691086842.
  14. ^ Evans, Richard J. (2005). The Third Reich in Power. Penguin. pp. 526–8. ISBN 1-59420-074-2.
  15. ^ a b Simone Gigliotti, Berel Lang. The Holocaust: a reader. Malden, Massachusetts, USA; Oxford, England, UK; Carlton, Victoria, Australia: Blackwell Publishing, 2005. Pp. 14.
  16. ^ Deutsch Sein Und Schwarz Dazu. Erinnerungen eines Afro-Deutschen. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, München October 2013,ISBN 978-3-423-26005-3.
  17. ^ "Book Review: Memories of Theodor Wonja Michael". The African Courier. Reporting Africa and its Diaspora!. Retrieved 2021-06-02.
  18. ^ "Brown Babies Adopted By Kind German Families," Jet, 8 November 1951. Vol. 1, No. 2. 15. Retrieved from Google Books on November 7, 2021. ISSN 0021-5996.
  19. ^ Women in German Yearbook 2005: Feminist Studies in German Literature & Culture, Marjorie Gelus, Helga W. Kraft page 69
  20. ^ Singh, Rajnish (13 November 2020). "Pierrette Herzberger-Fofana: Standing up for justice". The Parliament Magazine. Retrieved 20 November 2020.
  21. ^ "Über uns" (in German). Retrieved 2022-09-17.

Further reading[edit]

  • May Ayim, 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[edit]