Founding an African self-help association (1918)

The “African Self-Help Organization” (Afrikanische Hilfsverein) was founded in Hamburg in 1918. Its goal was to establish a central organizing point for Africans living in Germany, to serve as a “substitute for the tribal community and family in the homeland.” It was also intended to provide members with support in times of illness or death. At the time of its founding the organization had thirty-two paying members, half of whom were based in Hamburg, but any Black people living in Germany were eligible to join. To provide this support it relied on dues paid by members, but the growing social problems of the early 1920s far eclipsed its resources. The organization existed until 1924/25.

Although this was an explicitly apolitical organization, it nevertheless provided a foundation for later Black activism. Many members went on to be involved in other organizations, including the architect and Komintern activist Joseph Bilé, the actor Louis Brody, and the later chairman of the “German Section of the League for Defense of the Negro Race” Victor Bell.

Philipp Koepsell


The African Welfare Association

The aim of the association is to create a centre and with that a support for all Africans living in Germany, which, as far is possible, replaces the tribal society and family of home.

The African Welfare Association should not simply help and stand by members in cases of illness and death, but it should also be a communication point, through which relatives in Africa can always find out more about the stay of family members living in Germany.

Further, a work identity certificate is to be arranged for all association members and we ask all members to keep us up to date as to where there are employment positions for our compatriots.

In no way will the association deal with political issues.


§1 Any member of our black race and any person of colour can be a member.

§2 The membership cost is 1.25M a week or 5M a month.

§3 In the interest of our cause we ask those who earn well, to support the association with larger contributions.

§4 The contributions are to be sent free of postage to the association, as are all enquiries and all communications.

§5 Anyone who is more than three months in arrears with their contribution, without providing evidence of having been unemployed, can be removed from the membership list.

§6 Any member who is not present on the day of meeting, without an excuse, is to pay the association 20 cents.

§7 Anyone who wants to resign from the association has no right to the association’s assets.

§8 If the case of death the association will take responsibility for the funeral, if there is no other fund to pay for this.

§9 For children of deceased members, as well as for those who through no fault of their own find themselves in need, the association will step in to help, as long as there are funds to allow this.

§10 Further, the association will function as a form of legal protection for members and after studious consideration of the situation will support with advice and help countrymen lacking knowledge of the language and laws.

§11 In all cases not mentioned in the statues the African Welfare Association will also support its members, therefore the unity of all is a necessity. The association should replace a bit of home and take away the feeling of isolation [from living] amidst the white population.

Hamburg, ca. August 1918

Source: “Gründungssatzung des ‘Afrikanischen Hilfsvereins’ von 1918,” Staatsarchiv Hamburg, 331-3, SA 2819. Translated by Robbie Aitken.

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