“One of them from Cameroon!” (1891)

The establishment of German “protectorates” overseas had the unexpected effect, for administrators anyway, of bringing migrants, especially from the African colonies, to Germany. Although small in number overall and concentrated mostly in Berlin and Hamburg, Africans were nevertheless a visible presence and had to endure all manner of intrusive and abusive encounters on a regular basis. These were generally not considered newsworthy except by a very small number of commentators, but the event recounted below drew press attention because of the size and aggressiveness of the abusive crowd. This reveals the limits of the public expression of racist animus: note the efforts taken by police officers to maintain order and protect the two men as well as the newspaper’s criticism of “loutish” abuse based only on one man’s distinctive appearance. It is unclear if the man in question was actually Cameroonian, but the fact that he was identified as such reflects the prominence that Cameroon, among all the new colonies, had in the public imagination in 1891.

Jeff Bowersox


“One of them from Cameroon!” With such cries yesterday evening in north Berlin two people were harassed in a loutish manner by a group of people and street kids only because one was a different skin color and a wore slightly different clothing. In no time thousands of people had gathered in the Brunnenstrasse. The two strangers were being roared at by a thundering flood of people, and they tried a number of times, unfortunately without success, to climb upon a horse drawn carriage in order to escape. The constable stationed on the street received backup from a lot of colleagues in order to disperse the crowd. In the meantime the strangers had fled to a door entrance. There they waited under police protection for the next horse drawn carriage for Spittelmarkt, which was accompanied by the cries of thousands of people; they climbed on as quick as possible and the driver sped away as quickly as possible, leaving behind a mass of youngsters, stretching, across the entire street, who quickly followed screaming and shouting as they did so. In Anklamerstrasse, where the car stopped, the driver had to drive through a pressing mass of children by striking them, otherwise there would possibly have been yet another unfortunate incident.

Source: “‘Eene aus Kamerun!’,” Teltower Kreisblatt (30 May 1891), trans. by Robbie Aitken, 2.

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