The Berlin negro colony (1882)

This article in a local Berlin paper reports on the existence of a small “colony” of Black residents before Germany’s  acquisition of colonies in Africa. It testifies to the presence of both African Americans and Africans (distinguished here as “Blacks” and “Negroes”), the varying routes by which they came to Berlin, and the extent to which they had been able to integrate by adopting the Berlin dialect and starting families with white women. This was a newsworthy development, taken as a sign of Berlin’s cosmopolitanism at a time of rapid growth and aspirations to be a world-class metropolis. At the same time, the reporter did not feel it important to refer to all of the profiled individuals by their proper names, preferring the general category of “Negro” for most. 

Jeff Bowersox


The Berlin Negro colony, which includes about sixty people, surely are among the most interesting residents of Berlin. They can be separated into two different classes, the blacks who come from America and the Negroes who have been brought to the Spree [the river that runs through Berlin–J.B.] directly from Africa. Without exception they occupy a servant’s role. — The most distinguished is Sayio, the Moor of Prince Karl. When Bankroft Davis and Bayard Taylor came as ambassadors to Berlin, they brought Negroes with them. Both remained here after they finished their service. Taylor’s servant is now a runner for a business in Leipziger Street. Some of them have not only mastered German, but have also developed a “proper” Berlin dialect with “ick” and “wat.” Three Negroes have married white women and their children find among their classmates very willing playmates, as you can see if you visit the schools that they attend.

Source: Teltower Kreisblatt (11 March 1882), 78, trans. by Jeff Bowersox

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