Black community opens Theodor Wonja Michael Library in Cologne

A new library in honour of Theodor Wonja Michael will be opened on Saturday 19 February in Cologne as part of activities marking this year’s Black History Month.

The Theodor Wonja Michael Library was set up by the Afro-Diasporic association Sonnenblumen Community Development Group e. V.

Michael, who died in October 2019 at the age of 94, was one of the last Black survivors of Nazi terror at the time of his passing.

In his autobiography Deutsch Sein und Schwarz Dazu (“To Be German and Black”), he talked about how he miraculously survived both the terrors of the Hitler’s regime and the Second World War, and narrated his personal experiences in a way that “makes contemporary history comprehensible”, in the words of the author and filmmaker Annette von Wangenheim.

Michael, who was born on 15 January 1925 as the youngest of four children to a father from Cameroon and a German mother, was one of the few remaining Black Germans who lived through the horrors of the Nazi era to tell the story.

Michael lived in Cologne and was very active until the end of his life as an advocate for a different memory culture and he spoke against racism.

Several hundred books from his estate form the foundation of the Theodor Wonja Michael Library.

Thanks to numerous further book donations, the library’s shelves are now well stocked with novels, non-fiction and children’s books by Afro-German, African, Afro-American and Afro-Caribbean authors.

“At the Theodor Wonja Michael Library, we convey a non-judgmental and decolonial image of Africa and people of African descent,” explains co-founder Lamin Kargbo.

“The library is a place where we can learn all the things about Black history and cultural achievements that are not yet taught in schools in this country.

“This is intended to strengthen children and young people with African roots in particular. It is also intended to counteract overall prejudice and racism towards Africa and people of African origin in our society by providing literature, knowledge and exchange. There will also be regular events and workshops for this purpose. The Black Lives Matter protests in 2019 have shown that there is a need for this.”

With the Theodor Wonja Michael Library, the Afro-Diasporic association Sonnenblumen Community Development Group e. V. has created a place for exchange, education and empowerment.

Sola Jolaoso

Bebero Lehmann, Press & PR
Theodor Wonja Michael Bibliothek, Victoriastraße 6-8, 50668 Cologne

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