Anton Wilhelm Amo

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Free Africa monument for Anton Wilhelm Amo by Gerhard Geyer in Halle / Saale.

Anton Wilhelm Amo , also known as Antonius Guilielmus Amo Afer from Aximo in Guinea (* around 1703 in Nkubeam near Axim , today Ghana ; † after 1753 probably in today's Ghana [according to tombstone near Shama † 1784]), was the first known philosopher and legal scholar of African origin in Germany .


Amo was enslaved as a child and deported to Amsterdam by the Dutch West Indian Society ( Dutch Geoctroyeerde West Indian Compagnie , often WIC for short) . From there it was "given away" to Anton Ulrich von Braunschweig and Lüneburg-Wolfenbüttel , who "passed it on" to his son August Wilhelm as " Kammermohren ". In 1708 he was baptized Protestant in the Salzdahlum Palace Chapel in Wolfenbüttel and was given the name Anton Wilhelm Amo. In 1721 he was also confirmed in the castle chapel . His godparents and namesake were Duke Anton Ulrich and his son August Wilhelm.

The GDR historian Burchard Brentjes, on the other hand, reported that during a visit to the Amos family in Ghana in 1975 he heard that the child had been sent by his mother to their sisters in Amsterdam to be trained there. Kwame Nkrumah , the first president of the independent Ghana, who had done research on Amo himself and came from the same area as Amo, thought it was "very likely" that Amo was sent to study.

Amo received an excellent education at the humanistic court of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel . Perhaps he attended the Rudolph-Antoniana Knight Academy in Wolfenbüttel from 1717 to 1721 and the Protestant University of Helmstedt from 1721 to 1727 . In addition to German, he learned French , Greek , Hebrew , Dutch and Latin . In the Braunschweigisch-Wolfenbüttel court calendar or address book, “Anthon Wilhelm Amo, der Mohr, Log. aufm Schloß ”1721 under the“ Hertzogl. Laqveyen ”and in 1725 as“ Mohr, Anthon Wilhelm, bey Ihro Durchl. The ruling Hertzog Cammer servant ”.

From 1727 he studied philosophy and law at the University of Halle . In 1729 he wrote his first disputation under the title De iure Maurorum in Europa in Latin ( German about the legal status of Moors in Europe ). In 1730 he enrolled at the Philosophical Faculty of the University of Wittenberg and after just one month received the academic degree of Magister in Philosophy and Liberal Arts , which allowed him to offer lectures during which he continued his studies at the same time. How respected he was can be deduced from the fact that he led the procession with which the university greeted the new Elector August II on his visit in 1733 . In 1734 he received his doctorate in Wittenberg with his dissertation on the body-soul problem entitled De humanae mentis apatheia ( German about the insensibility of the human spirit ). In 1736 he moved back to the Philosophical Faculty of the University of Halle and taught there as a private lecturer . In 1739 he taught according to a lecture announcement from his pen at the University of Jena . Amo has not been recorded in Jena since 1740, nothing is known about his subsequent stay. In 1747 he left Germany for Ghana. The background is probably the death of his mentors and friends, professional difficulties, increasing racism and social isolation: his mentor Duke August Wilhelm died in 1731, his friend Johann Peter von Ludewig in 1743 . A marriage proposal was followed in 1747 by a ridicule campaign that culminated in the publication of racist ridiculous poems by the Halle rhetoric professor Johann Ernst Philippi . It is unlikely that Amos' application was directed to Anna Dorothea Gnüge (1715–1764), wife of Samuel Gotthold Lange since 1737 , who in 1746 mocked a rejected admirer in a poem as a satyr and “forest dweller” under the pseudonym “Doris” .   

Amo then lived first as a hermit in Axim and later in Fort San Sebastian near Shama . The exact year of his death is not known; on his new tombstone in front of Shama Fort is the year of death 1784.

The most detailed biographical information about Amo and his family can be found in an obituary by Isaac Winckelman (1723–1796) of the physician David Henry Gallandat (1732–1782), who, according to his diary entries in 1753, traveled to Axim on the " Gold Coast " had visited.


During Anton Wilhelm Amo's studies, Halle was an important scientific center within the German-speaking area, as both the first representatives of the Early Enlightenment and the Pietists were present there. Accordingly, there were numerous disputes between the so-called Pietists and Rationalists. The Halle Pietism was shaped by the well-known theologian August Hermann Francke . He campaigned for the renewal of church tradition. In contrast, Christian Wolff positioned himself as one of the first representatives of the Early Enlightenment, who argued with the concept of reason and, for example, emphasized German as a philosophical language instead of Latin.

Amo also studied in this environment and was therefore inevitably involved in these discussions, although he contradicted a clear positioning. Even within today's debate, it is still highly controversial whether he was a Wolffian or not. Even if there were differences to the Wolffian tradition (Amo wrote, for example, in Latin), it can be seen that he was much closer to it than to the Pietist representatives. Nevertheless, he bypassed the front lines and actively tried to assert himself by positioning himself in the field.

During his time at the University of Halle, he was significantly supported by the then University Chancellor Johann Peter von Ludewig . In 1729 Amo published his first disputation under the chairmanship of Ludewig with the title De iure Maurorum in Europa, or vom Mohren-Recht . It deals with the legal status of black people in Europe at that time, who were largely without rights. However, this text could not be found again; even in his later works he did not resort directly to him.

Despite Ludewig's support, Amo moved to Wittenberg in 1730, which he hoped would give him freer research opportunities and protection from the Pietists. In Wittenberg, he quickly obtained the degree of Master of Philosophy and the Liberal Arts. This enabled him to conduct his first courses himself. In the course of time, he further changed his scientific profile to medical studies, with the support of the physicist Martin Gotthelf Löscher , for example . Building on these experiences, he published his dissertation on the subject of body and soul in 1734, a dualism that was an important philosophical concept at the time. The dissertation was called De humanae mentis apatheia . In this he resorted to philosophers such as John Locke or René Descartes . He postulates a strong separation between body and soul. Thus, in his opinion, the mind stands outside of any suffering of the body, whereby physical agony, coercion and torture cannot make the mind suffer. With this the human soul is separated from everything material and corporeal. Conversely, the mind can develop freely beyond material, physical conditions and characteristics of the body (e.g. stigmata).


Badge for Amo on Jenergasse in Jena

Probably also in connection with the policy of friendship between the peoples of the GDR , there was an increased (research) interest in Anton Wilhelm Amo in the 1960s. This is particularly due to the first president of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah , who was interested in Amo. As a result, a research center on Amo was set up in Halle, with Burchard Brentjes in particular . For example, he published the book Anton Wilhelm Amo in 1965 . The black philosopher in Halle .

The statue that was erected in honor of Amos on the university campus next to the Robertinum on the Universitätsring can also be explained in this context . It is a bronze sculpture by the sculptor Gerhard Geyer . In 1961 he went on a study trip to what is now Guinea and Ghana, organized by the Academy of Arts of the GDR . Inspired by his trip, he designed the sculpture on behalf of the GDR. It was originally planned that the statue should be sent to Ghana as a gift to be displayed in front of a library. The choice of motifs can be analyzed accordingly: the woman and the man stand next to each other, symbolically as equals in socialism , depicted in the socialist working-class position, with their hands clenched into fists. In reference to the independence movements of the African countries, the title of the statue is "Free Africa". After the completion of the statue, however, it was not handed over due to changed political circumstances. Instead, it was installed on the university campus in a completely different context in 1965 and a commemorative plaque was added in 1975. Accordingly, the statue was not, as previously stated, created on behalf of the University of Halle-Wittenberg. Gerhard Geyer hadn't thought of Amo when creating the statue. There is no portrait of him, but due to his university activities in the 18th century, it cannot be assumed that Amo looked like the one depicted in Geyer's sculpture.

Since 1994 the University of Halle-Wittenberg has awarded the Anton Wilhelm Amo Prize for special scientific work to students and graduates. The Anton Wilhelm Amo Lecture has been taking place regularly since 2016 .

Amo is an important role model, especially for the Afro-German community. In 2018, for example, activists in Berlin demanded the renaming of Mohrenstrasse there to Anton-Wilhelm-Amo-Strasse in order, among other things, to carry on the memory of him and his history. In August 2020, work began on renaming the street to Anton-Wilhelm-Amo-Straße .

The Kunstverein Braunschweig honored Amo from March 28 to September 13, 2020 with an exhibition curated by Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung , Jule Hillgärtner and Nele Kaczmarek . For the duration of the exhibition, the Kunstverein renamed itself the Anton Wilhelm Amo Center at the suggestion of the architect Konrad Wolf ; This was implemented through an intervention on the association's website. The renaming, like the exhibition, was intended to temporarily create a place that is dedicated to the critical examination of hegemonic knowledge.


  • Dissertatio inauguralis de iure maurorum in Europa (Dissertation: On the legal status of the Moors in Europe), 1729 (lost)
  • (with Martin Gotthelf Löscher) Dissertatio inauguralis de humanae mentis ΑΠΑΘΕΙΑ (apatheia), seu sensionis ac facultatis sentiendi in mente humana absentia at earum in corpore nostro organico ac vivo praesentia (the " body-soul problem "). Schlomach, Wittenberg 1734 ( digitized version of the Berlin State Library - Prussian cultural property)
  • (with Johann Theodor Meiner) Disputatio philosophica continens ideam distinctam eorum quae competunt vel menti vel corpori nostro vivo et organico . Koberstein Witwe, Wittenberg 1734 ( digitized version of the Bavarian State Library in Munich)
  • Tractatus de arte sobrie et accurate philosophandi (Dissertation: On the art of philosophizing soberly and precisely). Kitler, Halle 1738 ( digitized version of the University Library Erlangen-Nürnberg)


  • Norbert Lochner: Anton Wilhelm Amo. A scholar from Ghana in 18th century Germany . In: Übersee-Rundschau 10, Issue 1 (1958), pp. 22–31 = Anton Wilhelm Amo. A Ghana Scholar in Eighteenth Century Germany . In: Transactions of the Historical Society of Ghana 3 (1958), pp. 169-179.
  • Ingeborg Kittel: Moors as court servants and soldiers in the Duchy of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel. In: Braunschweigisches Jahrbuch 1965 , Volume 46, self-published by the Braunschweigisches Geschichtsverein , Braunschweig 1965, pp. 78-103.
  • Burchard Brentjes : Anton Wilhelm Amo. The black philosopher in Halle. Koehler & Amelang, Leipzig 1976. (This also contains Amos' philosophical dissertation De Arte sobrie et accurate Philosophandi .)
  • Hannelore Heckmann: Anton Wilhelm Amo (approx. 1707 – approx. 1756). On the Reception of a Black Philosopher. In: Lessing Yearbook. Volume 23, 1990, pp. 149-158.
  • Burchard Brentjes: Anton Wilhelm Amo between early enlightenment and pietism. In: Gerhard Höpp (ed.): Foreign experiences. Asians and Africans in Germany, Austria and Switzerland until 1945. Das Arabische Buch, Berlin 1996, ISBN 3-86093-111-3 , pp. 29–33.
  • Monika Firla: Anton Wilhelm Amo (Nzema, Rep. Ghana). Kammermohr - Privatdozent for Philosophy - Fortune Teller. In: Tribus. Volume 51, 2002, ISSN  0082-6413 , pp. 55-90 (deals with Amos' philosophical thinking).
  • Johannes Glötzner: Anton Wilhelm Amo. A philosopher from Africa in 18th century Germany. Edition Enhuber, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-936431-01-9 .
  • Yawovi Emmanuel Edeh: The Basics of Amo's Philosophical Writings. How does Amo relate to Christian Wolff that you can call him “a leading Wolffian”? (= Philosophy in the Blue Owl. Volume 53). Die Blaue Eule, Essen 2003, ISBN 3-89924-051-0 (also dissertation, University of Duisburg, 2002).
  • Rainer Lohlker: Amo, Anton Wilhelm, Dr. phil. habil. In: Horst-Rüdiger Jarck , Dieter Lent et al. (Ed.): Braunschweigisches Biographisches Lexikon - 8th to 18th century . Appelhans Verlag, Braunschweig 2006, ISBN 3-937664-46-7 , p. 41-42 .
  • Jacob Emmanuel Mabe : Anton Wilhelm Amo read intercultural (= intercultural library. 31). Bautz, Nordhausen 2007, ISBN 978-3-88309-202-7 .
  • Ulrich van der Heyden : Anton Wilhelm Amo, the African philosopher. In: Ulrich van der Heyden (ed.): Unknown biographies. Africans in German-speaking countries from the 18th century to the end of the Second World War (= Edition Zeitgeschichte. Volume 26). Kai Homilius, Berlin 2008, ISBN 978-3-89706-849-0 .
  • Monika Firla: A Jena entry in the register of the black philosopher Anton Wilhelm Amo from 1746. AfriTüDe Geschichtswerkstatt, Stuttgart 2012.
  • Ottmar Ette : Anton Wilhelm Amo. Philosophizing without a permanent residence. A philosophy of the Enlightenment between Europe and Africa. Kulturverlag Kadmos, Berlin 2014 ISBN 978-3-86599-263-5 = ders .: Mobile Prussia. Views beyond the national . J. B. Metzler, Stuttgart 2019, pp. 1–36 ( Google Books ; limited preview) ISBN 978-3-476-04853-0 .


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. A matriculation of Amo cannot be proven in the matriculation of the university.
  2. Jacob Wilhelm Heckenhauer (ed.): Address calendar, the high-Princely Braunschweig Lüneburg capital and resident cities Wolffenbüttel and Braunschweig ... to the year of Christ 1721 . Wolfenbüttel 1721, p. 9; Heckenauer, Jakob Wilhelm (1929): Wolfenbütteler address book from 1725 , ed. by Paul Zimmermann. (Special publications of the Ostfälische Familienkundlichenommission 3). Reprint of the Wolfenbüttel 1725 edition. Degener, Leipzig 1929, under the letter "M".
  3. An overview of the content can be found in Gottfried Ludwigs Universal-Historie Fünfter Partie. Friedrich Lanckischen's heirs, Leipzig 1744, entry for November 1729, page 251 ( digitized version ).
  4. ^ Johann Ernst Philippi: III. Mr. M. Amo, a learned Moor, gallant proposal of love to Mademoiselle Astrine, a beautiful brunette / IV. Mademoiselle Astrine Parodic answer to the above poem by a Moor in love . In: ders .: Amusing Poetic Schaubühne . Frankfurt am Main and Leipzig 1749, other (= second) appearance (published as a partial delivery: Cörner, Köthen 1747), pp. 10–20 ( digitized version from the Lower Saxony State and University Library in Göttingen; digitized version from the German digital library);
    Love proposal and parodic answer (excerpt) at ( Memento from January 14, 2016 in the Internet Archive )
  5. ^ So Burchhard Brentjes: Anton Wilhelm Amo in Halle, Wittenberg, and Jena . In: Mitteilungen des Institut für Orientforschung 15 (1969), pp. 56-76, esp. P. 75, u. a.
  6. ^ Letters from Samuel Gotthold Lange , Johann Heinrich Waser and Anna Dorothea Gnüge ("Doris") with a poem, 1746, with mention a. a. by Johann Jakob Bodmer , Johann Georg Sulzer , Johann Wilhelm Ludwig Gleim . In: Samuel Gotthold Lange (Ed.): Collection of learned and friendly letters , Vol. I. Carl Herrmann Hemmerde, Halle 1769, No. 44 and 45, pp. 212–249, especially pp. 226–234 ( Google Books ). Waser confronted the unnamed admirer in a conversation - apparently in Switzerland - with the mocking poem.
  7. ^ Co-founder and president of the Zeeland Society of Sciences, councilor and former mayor of Vlissingen.
  8. From Yverdon in Switzerland, studies in Vlissingen, Schifsarzt, 1760 Dr. med. in Paris, city surgeon in Vlissingen, co-founder of the Zeeland Society of Sciences.
  9. ^ Jona Willem te Water : Historie van het Zeeuwsch Genootschap of Wetenschappen te Vlissingen . In: Verhandelingen uitgegeven door het Zeeuwsch Genootschap der Wetenschappen te Vlissingen 9 (1782), pp. Iii – lx, especially p. Xixf ( digitized version of the Biodiversity Heritage Library).
  10. Edeh, Yawovi Emmanuel, 1950-: The foundations of Amo's philosophical writings: what is the relationship between Amo and Christian Wolff that one can call him “a leading Wolffian”? The Blue Owl, Essen 2003, ISBN 3-89924-051-0 .
  11. ^ Ette, Ottmar .: Anton Wilhelm Amo - Philosophizing without a permanent residence A philosophy of the Enlightenment . Kulturverlag Kadmos Berlin, Berlin 2014, ISBN 978-3-86599-263-5 .
  12. ^ New writings, books and collegia . In: Weekly Hallischefrage and Anzeigungs-Nachrichten No. XVIII of November 28, 1729, Col. 271–274, esp. Col. 271–273 ( Google Books ).
  13. The African philosopher of the Enlightenment. In: Philosophy magazine. April 24, 2017, accessed on July 30, 2019 (German).
  14. ^ Brentjes, Burchard: Anton Wilhelm Amo. The black philosopher in Halle . Koehler + Amelang, Leipzig 1976.
  15. ^ Amo Lecture. Retrieved July 30, 2019 .
  16. ^ Jonas Wahmkow: Protest against street names in Berlin: Why not Anton-W.-Amo-Straße? In: The daily newspaper: taz . August 17, 2018, ISSN  0931-9085 ( [accessed July 30, 2019]).
  17. ^ Mohrenstrasse is to be renamed Anton-Wilhelm-Amo-Strasse. In: BZ August 21, 2020, accessed on August 21, 2020 .
  18. Benjamin Freund: Encounter with a stranger. Philosopher Anton Wilhelm Amo. monopol: Magazine for Art and Life, May 4, 2020 .;
  19. Detailed description in Dschungel , supplement to jungle world , 32, 6 August 2020, p. 12f., By Peter Nowak
  20. ^ The Faculty of Sensing - Thinking With, Through, and by Anton Wilhelm Amo. (PDF; 691 kB) Art Association Braunschweig;