In what could be described as a major victory for the Black community’s long struggle for the renaming of streets bearing names derogatory or disrespectful of Africans in the federal capital, the District Assembly (Bezirksversammlung) of Berlin-Mitte has approved the name change of the Mohrenstrasse (Moor Street).
On Thursday evening, the assembly decided to rename Mohrenstrasse. In the future, the street will bear the name of Anton Wilhelm Amo – the first scholar of African descent in a Prussian university. Amo was abducted in the territory of today’s Ghana and brought to Europe as a slave at the beginning of the 18th Century. He was educated at the universities of Halle and Wittenberg, where he received the degree of a doctor of philosophy in 1737.
The Mohrenstrasse has been the focus of Black activists and their German supporters for the decolonisation of the names given to the city’s streets and monuments. “Moor”, the description of the first people of African descent to live in Berlin, is considered by Black people as discriminatory.
The decision of the District Assembly crowns the efforts of the Afro-diasporic and solidarity activists of the alliance Decolonize Berlin e.V., which has been calling for the renaming of the Mohrenstrasse for many years.
In fact, the organisation is currently carrying out an online signature campaign on change.org, which had secured the support of more than 13,500 signatories when the decision of Berlin-Mitte was made on Thursday.
At the beginning of July, Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) had announced that “U-Bahnhof Mohrenstrasse”, the underground station on Line U2 of the city’s metro network, would be changed to Glinkastraße, after the Russian composer Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka (1804-1857).
After accusations that Glinka had been an anti-Semite, the Berlin government requested the BVG to reconsider its decision. It’s hoped that the underground station will also be renamed after Anton Wilhelm Amo. It would only be logical that a station named after a street should change its name to the new name of the street, activists say.
Decolonize Berlin will hold a victory party on Saturday, which is also the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, to celebrate the decision of the authorities to rename Mohrenstrasse. The ceremony will take place from 1pm in front of the Humboldt Forum and from 2:30pm at the Hausvogteiplatz.
Decolonize Berlin e.V. has been active for many years to sensitise the country to German involvement in the slave trade and colonialism but also to racism in society.